Angkor Virtual Tours with Sam’s family is the video tours shooting at different temples and the surroundings. Getting inspired by the peace, relaxation and the beauty of the temples, nature and livelihood around, bringing Sam to showcase how they like during this Covid-19 pandemic.
Angkor is one of the world largest archaeological sites actively operated. Stretching over 400 square kilometers, located in the Northwestern part of the Kingdom of Cambodia, in Siem Reap province. Siem Reap alone has over 1000 temples and ancient sites, while the whole Cambodia has up to over 4000 temples and ancient sites, even most of those have not been officially allocated yet.
However, Siem Reap is still the main destination to travel, because of the world largest religious Angkor Wat temple and many other significant ones. Its symmetrical towers are stylized on the modern Cambodian flag. In 2018 and 2019 Cambodia received around 6 million international tourists, while Siem Reap already took close to 2.5 million foreign travelers.
Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, this 2020 left the temple area the quietest especially the international tourists. “I have been to many temples in Siem Reap during this Coronavirus pandemic. I am so surprised to see how peaceful and quiet the temples are.” Sam commented.
In respond to this limited accesses and border-crossing permit, Sam Inspire has created a video series of Virtual Tours around the Temple sites and its surroundings. This while-you-are-at-home-tour styles hosted by Sam’s family. Here is one of the example of his tours uploaded on Sam Inspire Angkor YouTube Channel.
Banteay Kdei Temple – a Citadel of Monks’ Cells
This is temple is just a neighboring temple to the top famous Angkor Wat and Ta Phom. However, it is mostly missed from the tours plan. The secret Garuda tower at the Southgate is mostly a complete forgotten. This temple was the first great Buddhist monastery in Cambodia. Constructed by Jayavarman VII during the 12th and 13th centuries. Its system of galleries and vestibules that were added after the construction of the main towers makes it look like a cloister. It was built in sandstone, which has deteriorated quite badly. However, there remain some very beautiful lintels and pediments. Although it is in a ruinous state, it often receives far fewer visitors than nearby Ta Prohm, giving it a serene atmosphere.
Hereunder are the temples and sites have been featured and on the wishlist:
Phnom Kulen – the Natural and Archaeological Site
Located about 55km including 10 km uphill to the North-east of Siem Reap, Kulen could be a confusing name. Kulen alone refers to Litchi tree name. Kulen National Park, the name of one of the national parks in Cambodia, stretching on the upper land of around 374 km2. Kulen Mountain Rank refers to a few mountains from Phnom Kbal Spean, to Phnom Hob, and Phnom Kulen itself. While Phnom Kulen or Kulen mountain refers to a single mountain which is famous for the 20 meters high waterfall. It is considered by Khmer and Hindu followers to be the most sacred mountain in Cambodia and is a popular place of pilgrimage. It played a significant role in the history of the Khmer empire as it was from here in 802 AD that Jayarvarman II proclaimed independence from Java, giving birth to modern Cambodia. On the plateau, there is a large reclining Buddha carved into a sandstone boulder and beautiful views across the jungles. There are many waterfall across the site but only two are commonly known. Nearby these major waterfalls and there are some riverbed carvings of the sort seen at Kbal Spean. For more adventurous visitors, there are many old temples scattered across the mountain, but these are tough to reach.
Kbal Spean Ancient Site and Uphill Trek
Located 47 km North of Siem Reap, Kbal Spean is one of the ancient sites on Kulen Mountain Rank. The original ‘River of a Thousand Lingas’, Kbal Spean is an intricately carved riverbed deep in the foothills of the Cambodian jungle. The river flows down to the Tonlé Sap lake, and in ancient times its holy waters breathed life into the rice fields of the empire via the most complex irrigation system the world had ever seen. The Khmers venerated its limestone bed with a riot of carvings, including the delicate deities Vishnu and Shiva with their consorts. Lingams are phallic representations sacred to Hindus as fertility symbols and hundreds, perhaps thousands, are carved into the bedrock here. The carvings were only rediscovered in 1969 when French researcher Jean Boulbet was shown the river by a local hermit.
The best to visit is during the West season, around the months of September to November. A short jungle trek could be done not far from the Angkor area, as it is a steady but scenic climb to reach the river carvings. The path winds its way through knotted vines and big boulder formations and occasionally offers big views over the surrounding jungle. And there is a small waterfall below the carved riverbed, perfect for cooling off after the hot climb.
Beng Mealea – the Prototype of Angkor Wat Temple
Located 60 km, 1 hour drive to the East of Siem Reap, this amazing ruin was built as the prototype of Angnkor Wat temple. The lost temple of Beng Mealea is the titanic of temples, a slumbering giant lost for centuries in the forests of Cambodia. It is the most accessible of Angkor’s lost temples, a mirror image of Angkor Wat, but utterly consumed by the voracious appetite of nature. Constructed by Suryavarman II (1113-1150), the famous constructor of Angkor Wat, the forest has run riot here and it is hard to get a sense of the monument’s shape amid the daunting ruins.
Here it is possible to enjoy an Indiana Jones experience clambering about the vast ruin. For those who want a more gentle adventure, there is also a sturdy wooden walkway running right into the heart of the temple. It is also possible to visit a nearby Angkor-era quarry from where stone was cut to build these massive monuments.
Koh Ker Temple Group – The Lost early Angkian Civilian
Located 120 km, 2 hour drive to the Northeast of Siem Reap, a fine Pyramid-styled temple hidden. The history of Cambodia is riven with dynastic spats and political intrigue and one of the most memorable came in the 10th century when Jayavarman IV (928-942) fell out with his family, stormed off to the northwest and established the rival capital of Koh Ker. Although the capital for just 15 years, Jayavarman IV was determined to legitimise his rule through a prolific building programme that left a legacy of 30 major temples in Koh Ker complex. Prasat Thom is a seven-storey step pyramid, more Mayan than Khmer, with commanding views over the surrounding forest. Nearby is Prasat Krahom, Red Temple, named after the pinkish stone from which it is built. Prasat Bram, five-tower temple, has some incredible strangler figs smothering the stonework, offering a great photo opportunity.
Banteay Chhmar – Temple of my Son
Located 163 km, 3 hours to the West of Siem Reap, the temple of Banteay Chhmar, is an atmospheric place to explore. Famous for its signature faces of Jayavarman VII, it is home to the magnificent carvings of Lokesvara with 32 arms, nicknamed lok sam-pee (Mr 32) by Khmers, as well as the beautiful Hall of Dancers, similar to the famous Preah Khan. It is worth exploring the outer complex, including the gate of Ta Prohm, like a smaller cousin of the impressive Angkor Thom gates and protected by a moat. It is also possible to visit the enigmatic temple of Banteay Top. Here the central tower has collapsed, only to be rebuilt and resembles a precarious tower of building blocks.
Dominating the flat landscape, this 10th Century mountain temple is the most popular spot in the area to watch a classic sunset over Angkor Wat and the surrounding forest. A winding path cuts through the jungle or there is the option of an elephant ride to the summit. This temple is the signature spot for sunset, so it can get very crowded. Please advise the guide if you want to experience sunset at a quieter location or would prefer to venture here for sunrise when the crowds are generally much lighter.
Surrounded by faces on all sides, visitors never forget the enigmatic and enchanting temple of the Bayon. At the exact centre of Angkor Thom, this is an eccentric expression of the creative genius and inflated ego of Cambodia’s most celebrated king. Its 54 towers are each topped off with the four faces of Avalokiteshvara (Buddha of Compassion), which bear more than a passing resemblance to the king himself. These colossal heads stare down from every side, exuding power and control with a hint of compassion, just the mix required to keep a hold on such a vast empire.
Unlike his predecessors who had worshipped the Hindu deities of Shiva and Vishnu, Jayavarman VII adopted Mahayana Buddhism as the fount of royal divinity. This sets the Bayon apart from many other Angkorian monuments. The bas-reliefs here depict intricate scenes of ancient battles against the Chams and offer a wonderful snapshot of daily life during the Angkor period.
This perfect pyramidal temple, built by Udayadityarvarman II, has been coined the ‘world’s largest jigsaw puzzle’. Dismantled by the EFEO for restoration in the 1960s, the Khmer Rouge destroyed the architectural records in the 1970s. When French teams returned in the 1990s, they had to work out where the 300,000 pieces of sandstone were supposed to be placed. From the remaining ruins, it is possible to see how imposing was in its heyday. This temple mount was dedicated to Shiva, but in its reliefs many motives from Vishnu’s life can be seen. The Baphuon has been preserved as a partial ruin, complete with a huge reclining Buddha, added in the 16th Century.
Terrace of Elephants and Terrace of the Leper King
The first terrace owes its name to the outstanding depiction of elephants, and was used as a viewing gallery at royal events. The second terrace takes its name from the magnificent sculpture of King Yasovarman, popularly known as the Leper King. The original of this statue is now in the National Museum and is now believed to be Yama, the god of death, as it is believed this site served as the royal crematorium.
Ta Prohm Temple
This temple is perhaps the most atmospheric of all Angkor’s treasures. The temple was a monastery built by Jayavarman VII as a residence for his mother. Ta Prohm has been left to the destructive power of nature by archaeologists to demonstrate the awesome power of nature.
It has been largely consumed by the jungle and as you climb through the dilapidated stone structures you see many giant trees growing out of the top of the temple itself. At every turn you expect to see Indiana Jones or Lara Croft step out from behind a fallen pillar. It is one of the most regularly visited temples, with visitors often arriving during the middle of the day to take advantage of the protective forest canopy above the ruined temple. Ta Prohm looks as many of the monuments did when European explorers first laid eyes on them. We recommend a dawn visit to soak up the unique atmosphere without the crowds.
Preah Khan Temple
Built in the same style as Ta Prohm, Preah Khan is a much better state of preservation. Meaning The Sacred Sword, this temple was also built by Jayavarman VII and is famous for its immensely long cruciform corridors and delicate carvings, including the spectacular hall of dancers. Look out for the curious two-storey structure that is almost Grecian in inspiration. This is one of the few temples originally dedicated to both Buddhism and Hinduism. The original eastern entrance was for Mahayana Buddhists, while the other cardinal points represented the Hindu trinity of Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma.
Ta Keo Temple
King Suryavarman I commissioned this temple in the 10th Century, but it was never completed so has no elaborate decoration like its contemporaries. It is a pyramid on 5 levels and is dedicated to Shiva. Some scholars contend this was due to an inauspicious lightning strike during construction. Others have suggested the high quality sandstone was simply too hard to carve in detail.
Pre Rup Temple
This temple was built in the 10th Century by Rajendravarman. Pre Rup means turning the body and the Khmers believe this temple was used for cremations. This is a popular sunset spot for views over the Cambodian countryside.
East Mebon Temple
The large brick and stone temple of Eastern Mebon was originally located on an island in the centre of the now dry Eastern Baray (reservoir). A low pyramid, this temple has large guardian elephants on each corner. This is one of the few temples where we can understand the construction techniques of the ancient Khmers, as there are still large soil ramps on each side of the temple, showing us how they moved these heavy stones into place.
Neak Poan Temple
This temple is a delicate highlight of Khmer art. Built by Jayavarman VII, this temple is the perfect representation of the heavens on earth. It has been said that this monument was consecrated to Buddha who attained Nirvana, and the ornamental lakes surrounding it were meant as places where pilgrims could wash and purify themselves before reaching perfection. In the centre of these ornamental lakes there is a small temple surrounded by two nagas.
Banteay Samre Temple
The 12th century temple of Banteay Samre was built by King Suryavarman II, the genius behind Angkor Wat, and has been extensively restored. The temple is unique in that over-quarrying of sandstone led to the use of laterite for the roofed corridors. The pediments above the inner doors here include some of the most accomplished carving from the Angkor period.
Banteay Srei Temple
This jewel of Angkor was built by a Brahman in the 10th Century and dedicated to Shiva. The famous pink sandstone structure bears a series of exquisite sculptures, lintels and friezes. These, it is said, must have been carved by women as the detail is too fine for the hands of a man. This gives the origin of the Khmer name, Fortress of the Women. While it may be a small temple complex, the beauty of Banteay Srei is found not in the scale, but the detail. Many believe the intricate carving is the best example of Khmer classical art in existence.
Built by Yasovarman I in the 10th century; this temple sits atop a hill overlooking the Tonle Sap Lake. The temple is in very poor condition, but its ruins are worth visiting for views. This is the place for a quiet sunset.
Roluos Group Temples
Roluos was one of the earliest Angkor capitals, built by King Indravarman and originally called Hariharalaya. Today there are three Hindu sanctuaries: Preah Ko, Bakong and Lolei. Lolei was originally set on an island in the centre of the Indratataka baray (reservoir). This temple has some well preserved sandstone carvings and the vast stone doors are carved from a single piece of stone. Preah Ko (sacred cow), named in honour of Shiva’s mount, Nandin. This temple owes more to the pre-Angkorian brick sanctuaries of Cambodia’s earlier Chenla empire than the sandstone behemoths that came later. Originally coated in stucco and painted, there is still some of the ancient plaster visible on the rear towers. Bakong was the earliest of the Temple Mountains, which later were to become the signature of Khmer kings. It is a giant pyramid, its cardinal points marked by giant elephants. We climb to the summit for views over the surrounding countryside. All three temples are well preserved and worth a visit to offer the visitor a chronological perspective on the development of Angkor.
Since this virtual tours is not Sam’s full time work or business, it is more about his hobbies and lessons for his kids. Sam Inspire will try the best bring you with those amazing stories and picture to you while at home.
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