After a quiet morning and lunch our group headed out to the Angkor Archaeological Park to start out temple visits. Angkor is one of the most important archaeological sites in South-East Asia. Stretching over some 400 km2, including forested area, Angkor Archaeological Park contains the magnificent remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire, from the 9th to the 15th century. They include the famous Temple of Angkor Wat and, at Angkor Thom, the Bayon Temple with its countless sculptural decorations. UNESCO has set up a wide-ranging programme to safeguard this symbolic site and its surroundings.
The first stop was the Beyon Temple. Bayon is in the heart of the ancient city of Angkor Thom, which was the symbolic center of the Khmer empire. Dedicated to Buddha by King Jayavarman VII, this state temple was originally called “Jayagiri” (which means “Victory Mountain”) but was renamed “Banyan Temple” sometime after the period of French occupancy. The Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment after a long period of meditation beneath a banyan tree. The religious significance of the banyan tree and the many banyan trees growing around the site made it an appropriate name. However, the local Khmer who worked on the restoration of the temple were responsible for its final name change. The workers mispronounced the name as “Bayon” instead of “Banyan” and the name stuck.
After this exploration we headed for Ta Prohm Temple. it was founded by the Khmer King Jayavarman VII as a Mahayana Buddhist monastery and university. Unlike most Angkorian temples, Ta Prohm is in much the same condition in which it was found: the photogenic and atmospheric combination of trees growing out of the ruins and the jungle surroundings have made it one of Angkor's most popular temples with visitors. UNESCO inscribed Ta Prohm on the World Heritage List in 1992. Today, it is one of the most visited complexes in Cambodia’s Angkor region. The conservation and restoration of Ta Prohm is a partnership project of the Archaeological Survey of India and the APSARA (Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap).
Before dinner tonight we were treated to some traditional Cambodian music and dancing. The selections were the Peacock of Pailin Dance, The Fisher's Dance, The Mekala Dance and the Aspara Dance. The dancers were superb.