Ancient Angkor

Updated: 2014-07-11 07:01

By Bidisha Bagchi (China Daily)

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Ancient Angkor

Angkor Wat is a vast temple complex built in the 12th century in Siem Reap, Cambodia.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Big crowds at the temple can't diminish the wonder of Cambodia's most famous ruins, Bidisha Bagchi discovers.

Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia is expected to see about 4 million visitors this year, according to one tourism survey. We were glad to be a part of the horde experiencing the grandeur of the majestic UNESCO World Heritage site, which some acclaim as "poetries in stone".

Ancient Angkor

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We left our hotel by 5 am to see the temple of Angkor Wat with the rising sun. Despite the early hour, we weren't the only visitors.

There were hundreds of people, all equipped with high-tech cameras, some with tripods, occupying the most accessible positions to get the best view and impatiently waiting for the sunrise.

The temple blossomed in the dawn, looking radiant and magnificent as we watched the play of the sun's early rays.

Angkor Wat was built by the Hindu king Suryavarman II, who dedicated it to Lord Vishnu, the supreme god of Hinduism. The original idol of the deity from the 12th century still stands intact inside the complex, beautiful and well-protected from the rain and sun. Many original statues still remain inside the temple towers and galleries.

Angkor was the king's capital and also the classical example of the gorgeous Khmer (Hindu-Buddhist empire of Cambodia) architecture.

The galleries are more than 1.5 kilometers long with thousands of beautiful and intricate carvings of the Hindu epic Ramayana. This wall is also the longest continuous sculpture in the world.

The carvings of the Apsaras (celestial dancers) and their jewelry adornments and head gears are so intricate and lively that it was difficult to believe that no modern equipment was used to carve them. The entire temple is built of a special kind of sandstone that is typical of Cambodia.

Only one out of the five towers was open to visitors. We had a tough challenge climbing up a steep flight of restored stairs. Climbing wasn't easy but worthwhile. The bird's-eye view of the Angkor Wat complex was breathtaking.

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