February 04
Day Three

Today we would see Prea Khan, ... along the Grand Circuit, as well as pass the usual favorites.


The expression "defacing" never really sunk in until I saw this. The history of Angkor Wat spans many centuries, with many changes in religious sensibilities. Prea Khan, when built, had many depictions of Buddha, but subsequently Hindu faithful removed all such traces (all but one, see below!) and in some cases altered the original carving to depict hindu deities.


The supporters of the naga (snake) figure that flanks this bridge suffered a similar fate. It wasn't clear whether this was hindu vandalism or merely a change in the religion over the centuries, but one thing is clear: hundreds, possibly thousands, of Buddha depictions are now gone.


Every hundred meters or so, these guardians discourage intruders. Note that the tooth-like structures at the top of the wall each had a depiction of Buddha, but each one has been removed.

Stoneworking Tools

Take a bit of rebar, shape and temper it, and you've got a chisel good enough for the restoration efforts here...


The familiar sound of a blacksmith forging the next tool can be heard here just inside the western gate of Prea Khan.

Inner Gate

Down a short path through jungle that has found its way into the site, and you come to this gate.

Inner Ruins

Just inside that building, the courtyard lays strewn with remains of a fallen structure.

Secluded Shrine

If you venture off the main path that leads east/west down the middle of the site, you find this shrine hidden in a small alcove. Faithful come here to pray.

Hidden Shrine

If you're willing to squeeze through a tiny passage, you can make it to this shrine, too. But be warned, it's really cramped here.

Pillars and Vaults

The inner sandstone has fallen away, revealing the laterite "skeleton" that makes up the foundation and structural composition of most buildings in Angkor Wat.


The wall here shows the iron-rich laterite, and the pale dusty sandstone that the forms the door frames. The lintel and wall caps are also sandstone, but covered in thick lichens.

Jungle Intrusion

Like Ta Prohm, this site is fairly close to its rediscovered state... some restoration has taken place, but here too some trees have become so invasive that it's next to impossible to remove... and even if you could, some of the drama and charm would be gone.

Low Walls

Restoration efforts haven't begun in earnest at Prea Khan, giving it, like Ta Prohm, still very much that storybook "lost world" charm.

The King's Sword

This ruin is where the king's sacred sword was kept, and the structure here is the building in which it was stored.

Two Trees

Here not one but two trees once clung tenaciously to, and now essentially support, the loggia of this structure.


A bit to the east, one of two small libraries sits on either side of the path to the eastern gate.

Jungle Reclaimed

When built, this area was thought to have been completely cleared, such that the eastern gate (barely visible in photo) and wall would have been the defining boundary of the place.

Recent War Strife

Scars on the stone from tanks passing through this gate are visible. Nearby, sections of wall are riddled with bullet holes.

East Gate

An almost mirror image of the western gate (above) is seen here. The heads of the supporting gods and demons were long ago removed, and again, the images of the Buddha were likewise chipped away...

All But One

...all but one, that is. Interestingly, one single carving remains, either overlooked or spared by the vandals of history.

Temple of Healing

Just a bit east of Prea Khan is Neak Pean, a temple of healing which has been partially reclaimed from the jungle.

Pools of Holy Water

A large central pool, shown here, and four satellite pits, produced purified holy water used in healing rituals.

Pools are Dry

Presently, the pools are dry (during the rainy season, they fill up.) For now, however, local life makes use of the refuge the structures provide.

Ta Som Restoration

Restoration is afoot at the small site of Ta Som found just a little bit farther down the grand circuit.


Sharp Tree

The south-eastern panel of Angkor Wat depicts punishments for wrong doers, including the sin of adultery (for both men and women, interestingly.) The unfaithful can expect to be tied to and embrace a jagged-spiked tree for all eternity for their transgression. Here's one specimen of such a tree....

Eastern Gate

At the eastern edge of Ta Som, a single lonely gate, adorned with its own tree, looks out over a path that goes nowhere.

Street Market

Back in Siem Reap, we pass by an open market bustling with activity.

Headless Truck

There are many strange vehicles on the road in Cambodia, including this fairly common specimen, a dump-truck of sorts without a cab or even windshield. The drivers are often seen wearing full motorcycle helmets.

Lolei Sunset

Several kilometers east of Siem Reap are a handful of structures that represent the predecessors to Angkor Wat. One of them, Lolei, is shown here. Though being restored, it is little more than a handful of cupolas.

Bakong Sunset

Being so far from the "beaten tracks", the Bakong is far less touristy, and an ideal place to serenely watch the sun set without the choking dust and fumes of tour busses and the constant din of hundreds of tourists. It's what Angkor Wat used to be.


It's also situated in the middle of a village, so you can sit atop the summit and watch life go by all around you. So in a way, it's the perfect way to cap off a stay at Angkor Wat.

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