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Angkor Temples 5

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October, 2004

Baphuon 11th Century •• Baphuon Style Udayadityavarman II
Angkor photo.

"North of the Golden Tower (Bayon) ... rises the Tower of Bronze, higher even than the Golden Tower: a truly astonishing spectacle, with more than ten chambers at its base."

— Helen Churchill Candee, 1925

Baphuon was called the "Tower of Bronze" and is renowned for its bas-relief carvings on small stone tiles. However, much of the temple collapsed over the years and the EFEO began a restoration using anastylosis. They were forced to flee Cambodia in 1972, leaving much of the temple's stones lying scattered in the surrounding jungle. The Khmer Rouge destroyed all of the archaeological records that were left behind, and the EFEO has had to start all over trying to decide which stones go where. As a result of the restoration work, the temple is no longer open to tourists; we could only view it from a distance (see the photo at left).

The temple doesn't look like much now, but after the restoration it should again be a magnificent part of the Angkor complex. Part of the temple's distinctive causeway is still open to tourists today. The causeway originally crossed a large moat, most of which has dried up today. The 200 meter (650 foot) long causeway is divided into two parts. The east section leads from the east entrance to a pavillion in the middle of the moat; the west section leads from the pavillion to the temple.

Although we were not able to enter the temple, we did explore the surrounding walls and jungle. We found some beautiful locations. Here are some photos:

stairs  | entrance gate  | gopura  | wall


Beng Melea 11th Century Angkor Wat Style Suryavarman II
Angkor photo.
Beng Melea

Beng Melea is a sprawling temple that may have been the prototype for the later temple at Angkor Wat. Much of it is barely visible amidst the trees and vines of the Cambodian jungle (see the photo at left). This was the condition of most of the temples of Angkor when the French first began exploring them.

Beng Melea is the most remote of the temples we saw. The trip from Siam Reap takes about 3 hours each way, with much of the trip over a dirt road. It was only recently declared free of mines, and exploring the temple means climbing about on tilting, moss-covered stones. It is no wonder that few tourists bother to visit. We had the temple to ourselves the whole time we were there.

This temple contains very few decorative carvings. It is likely that the decorations were never finished. A few of the temple structures are still somewhat intact, such as this doorway, but most of the temple has collapsed. Much of it is no more than scattered stones. In some places, what is left of the temple is so covered with vegetation that it is hard to tell what you are seeing.

We found the ruins of Beng Melea to be quite beautiful. The canopy of trees shades the ground, diffuses the light and adds a green cast to the scene. The standing walls are covered with vines, and the fallen stones are covered with moss, each adding more shades of green. Altogether, a quiet, enchanting experience in the jungle. Here are eight more photos:

gallery  | causeway  | balusters  | vine  | causeway
tower  | gallery  | doorway


Chau Say Tevoda 12th Century Angkor Wat Style Suryavarman II
Angkor photo.
Chau Say Tevoda

"Two symmetrical shrines, Thom Manon and Chau Say — alike in design and structure and twins also in ruin."

— R.J. Casey, 1929

Chau Say Tevoda and Thommanon are nearly identical temples placed on either side of the road to the Victory gate in the eastern wall of Angkor Thom. Chau Say had deteriorated over the years, and is now being rebuilt using the anastylosis method of demolition and rebuilding (see the photo at left). Some of the smaller buildings have been completely removed and will be rebuilt later. The temple site is closed to visitors, and can only be viewed from a distance.

Access to this temple, as to most Angkor temples, is from the east along a raised stone causeway. (The causeway paving stones, like so much of this temple, are currently missing.) The causeway leads to a raised platform and a walkway through the jungle to the Siam Reap River, a few hundred meters to the east.

As the temple walls are reconstructed, any original stones that are missing or too badly damaged to be reused are being replaced with new stone. We watched skilled sculpters using hand tools to recreate a pediment using traditional methods. We also saw other workers using modern power tools. The end result should be a temple that is as complete as possible.


Thommanon 12th Century •• Angkor Wat Style Suryavarman II
Angkor photo.

Thommanon is a near twin of Chau Say Tevoda (above). It was rebuilt using anastylosis by the EFEO in the 1960's, and is in good condition today. The temple consists of a central sanctuary surrounded by a laterite enclosure wall. There are two gopura (entry towers) at east and west, and a hall between the east gopura and the sanctuary (see the photo at left). The wall is mostly gone, and there should be towers at north and south. There is only one library. The towers and sanctuary are symetrical and aligned to give great visual depth to the temple.

As at so many of the Angkor temples, the steps were steep & narrow, and badly worn. We took great care climbing them.

Here are three more photos of Thommanon temple:

sanctuary  | library  | doors


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