Our second day in Cambodia was a doozy. We were totally not prepared for how hot it really gets here. I have never sweat like that before and sweat from places I never knew I could. But despite the heat, we got out and had a full day of visiting temples. We arranged for a three day tour with a driver and our own English speaking guide. If you are planning on going to Cambodia, we HIGHLY recommend this! The temple complexes are HUGE and you could easily get lost in them or spend twice the time we did touring through them just wandering around by yourself.
We enjoyed the fact that our guide was able to get us through the complexes efficiently all while giving us a TON of information about the temples, their construction, and background on the Hindu and Buddhist meanings. The majority of the temples were made out of sandstone and lava stone. It is simply amazing that these structures were built all by hand nearly 1,000 years ago. The amount of labor and time put into the meticulous details of these temples blows you away.
The first temple we visited, Preah Ko, is located in one of the earliest capitals in the Angkor area. It was built in 879 AD and literally means sacred cow. Cows and bulls are important symbolism in the Hindu religion and the majority of the early temples were built to honor the Hindu trinity of Vishnu, Shiva, and Brahma. Bulls are a regular figure that guard the temples along with lions.
Next we visited Bakong built in 881 AD. All the temples were built marked by the cardinal points with doors or blind doors that open up to all directions. All of them open up to the East to honor the God of the Sun. Bakong is built like a giant pyramid and the cardinal directions are marked by elephants.
From there we headed to the temple of Preah Khan which was built in the late 12th century. Its name literally means sacred sword and Preah Khan is a sister temple to Ta Prohm. In the 12th century, Buddhism had made a major appearance under King Jayavarman VII who built many temples that were dedicated to both Buddhism and Hinduism. But during the reign of one of his successors, he went through and got rid of all the Buddhas throughout the temples as he tried to rid the area of Buddhism.
The last temple of the day we visited was Phnom Bakheng. Phnom Bakheng was built at the end of the 9th century, constructed more than two centuries before the famous Angkor Wat which you can also see from atop the hill at Phnom Bakheng. We enjoyed watching the sun set from the top of the temple.
I guess one of the big things I never realized that these amazing temples were going up in this part of the world while other similar structures were being built in the Western world. It is simply amazing the technology and sophistication needed to construct these massive structures. The architecture and the layouts of all the temples were strategically and meticulously planned. If you ever get the chance, we both highly recommend visiting Cambodia. It’s an eye opening experience in so many ways… It really is a once in a lifetime experience! I can’t wait to share with you all about it!