Temple Architecture of Cambodia
A small group tour led by Professor Peter Bellwood
Saturday 09 September to Wednesday 20 September 2018
Professor Peter Bellwood FBA
Professor Peter Bellwood FBA, Emeritus Professor (Archaeology) at the Australian National University.
The Hindu and Buddhist temples of Angkorean Cambodia are some of the most evocative monuments to survive from the medieval world. Built at the command of indigenous Khmer rulers, but in an intensely Indic style, they represent a level of cultural fusion rarely paralleled elsewhere.
During the tour Peter will talk on the temples of Cambodia and on current research into their roles in ancient Cambodian society. He will also describe the emergence of the ancient civilizations of South Asia and China, and discuss the origins of the peoples of Mainland Southeast Asia themselves in terms of their languages, archaeology and biology. More specific titles will include the following:
- The wonders of Angkor: an introduction to the history and architecture of the monuments
- Indigenous peoples and languages of Southeast Asia, with a discussion of their origins
- The origins of the peoples, cultures and civilization of South Asia
- The origins of the peoples, cultures and civilization of China
- Cambodia in the world of ancient civilizations, from Mesopotamia to the Maya
Professor Bellwood will also be joined by a local archaeologist who will lecture about restoration work at Angkor.
London • Siem Reap • Preah Vihear • Saem • Kampong Svay • Kampong Thom • Sambor Prei Kuk • Siem Reap • Banteay Chhmar • Siem Reap • London
(Meals: B-Breakfast, L-Lunch, D-Dinner)
Midday departure from London Heathrow Airport on overnight Thai Airways Flight to Siem Reap via Bangkok
On arrival at Siem Reap International Airport you will be welcomed by a local English speaking guide, and transfer to the Victoria Angkor hotel for 5 nights. The rest of the day will be at leisure. (D)
After breakfast at the hotel you will visit the late 9th century Roluos group of temples (Lolei, Preah Ko and Bakong), which are the remains of Hariharalaya, the first major capital of the Angkorian-era Khmer Empire. The ancient capital was named for Harihara, a synthesis of the Hindu gods Shiva and Vishnu, and it served as the Khmer capital for over 70 years under four successive kings.
In the afternoon you will stop at Neak Pean, a unique sanctuary located in the centre of an artificial pond. You will continue on to Ta Prohm, a temple which has been left largely in its natural state since its discovery by French explorers. Surrounded by jungle, its labyrinth of stone hallways is overgrown with the roots and limbs of massive banyan trees, which envelop the stone like tentacles. It is one of the largest temples at Angkor, dedicated by the Khmer ruler Jayavarman VII in 1186.
Dinner will be at the hotel, and you will be joined by a local archaeologist who will lecture about restoration work at Angkor. (B,D)
This morning you will have a private tour of The Conservation d’Angkor Centre in Siem Reap. The centre is charged with protection all of Cambodia’s ancient Khmer temples and artefacts, and it is not open to the general public. This will give you a strong understanding of the importance of the temples, and their key characteristics.
From the centre you will travel straight to magnificent Angkor Thom, the last capital of the Khmers. The striking monuments here include the South Gate, the Bayon, Phimeanakas and Baphuon Temples, and the Elephant and Leper King Terraces. The late 12th century Bayon of Jayavarman VII lies at the very centre of Angkor Thom, and it is an archaeological wonder of symmetry and grandeur. The exterior gallery walls have extensive bas-reliefs but the highlights are the more than 200 faces on towers, each with a famous half-smile playing on its lips.
After lunch it is time to visit Angkor Wat, the largest temple in the world. The volume of stone used to build it equals that of Cheops’ Pyramid in Egypt. Unlike other Khmer temples, it faces west, and was inspired by 12th century Hinduism. Its symmetrical towers are stylised on the modern Cambodian flag.
Conceived by Suryavarman II, Angkor Wat took an estimated 30 years to build, around 1150. It was described in 1296 as a funerary temple for a king, presumably Suryavarman, by the Chinese visitor Zhou Daguan. Since the 13th century conversion of Angkor to Hinayana Buddhism, the temple has been occupied continuously by Buddhist monks and as a result is well preserved. Angkor Wat is surrounded by intricate bas-reliefs on four sides. Each one tells a story. The most celebrated of these is the Churning of the Ocean of Milk, which is located on the east wing. In it the Naga serpent is twisted by demons and gods to spurt out the elixir of life. ((B,L,D)
Your itinerary today takes you to Phnom Kulen, which is where the 500 year long Age of Angkor began. It was on this mountain that Jayavarman II initiated a royal “god king” linga cult in 802 AD, declaring a unified and independent Cambodia under a single ruler. Soon after, he moved his capital from Kulen to Roluos, where it remained for almost a century before moving to Angkor. Sites here include hundreds of linga carved in the rock bed of the shallow Siem Reap River, waterfalls, and an active pagoda. You will have a picnic lunch on the riverbank.
This afternoon you will visit Banteay Srei — the ‘citadel of women’ — the tiny, enchanting temple which is one of the jewels in this remarkable city. It was also the first to be reconstructed, in the 1930s. Built of red sandstone, initially in the 10th century, and dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, the lintel carvings are exquisitely executed in both style and proportion. In the words of H.W. Ponder, Banteay Srei is a fairy palace in the heart of an immense and mysterious forest.
There will also be time to see Banteay Samre, built under Suryavarman II and later modified by Yasovarman II in the early 12th century. It is a Hindu temple in the Angkor Wat style. Perhaps named after the Samré, an ancient people of Indochina, the temple uses the same materials as Banteay Srei. (B,L,D)
Following breakfast, depart for Koh Ker, a temple complex lost to the jungle for many years and only recently opened up. Situated in barren hill country some 85 km northeast of Angkor, the temples were part of the 10th century capital of Koh Ker, also known as Chok Gargyar — 'Island of Glory’.
Koh Ker was home to Jayavarman IV, the maternal uncle of the two previous kings and a great feudal landholder, who ascended the throne in 928. He built many colossal sanctuaries dedicated to Shiva, ruled over large numbers of people, and lived in considerable splendour.
The monuments of Koh Ker are arranged into three main groups. The first group includes the state temple of Prasat Thom and the ruins of the walled capital. In the second and third groups are rows of towers. You will have a picnic lunch on site.
Driving out two hours from Siem Reap, you will come to Beng Mealea, the 11th century Lotus Pond Temple built by Suryavarman II. Still engulfed by jungle, it is resplendent. Clambering over large sandstone blocks to reach the inner sanctuary and eerie worship corridor is an exploration to remember.
Architecturally, Beng Mealea is noted for its innovative construction of hallways. It is a very large temple with wide galleries foreshadowing those of Angkor Wat. Garudas hold up an outer platform, finer in detail than those to be found on the Elephant Terrace at Angkor Thom. Surprises of fallen lintels with intricate carvings lie amongst the fallen wall and roofs. Dinner with APSARA Performance at a local restaurant. (B,L,D)
Breakfast today will be early, and you will then drive the four hours from Siem Reap to Preah Vihear.
Preah Vihear is an ancient Hindu temple built during the period of the Khmer Empire. It is situated atop a 525m high cliff in the Dângrêk Mountains. In 1962, following a lengthy dispute between Thailand and Cambodia over ownership, the International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled that the temple is in Cambodia.
Preah Vihear has the most spectacular setting of all the temples built during the six-centuries-long Khmer Empire. As a key edifice of the empire's spiritual life, it was supported and modified by successive kings, and so bears elements of several architectural styles. It is unusual among Khmer temples in being constructed along a long north-south axis, rather than having the conventional rectangular plan oriented toward the east. Preah Vihear is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You will have a picnic lunch on site
After your visit to Preah Vihear, you will have dinner at a local restaurant in Saem Village then stay overnight at Preah Vihear Boutique. (B,L,D)
On Day 08 you will travel some 700km from Saem Village to Kampong Thom Province via Preah Khan Kampong Svay.
The archaeological complex of Preah Khan Kampong Svay is located 100 km east of Angkor. It stands as the largest single religious complex built during Angkorian Era, but its isolated location makes it one of less visited Angkorian sites.
Preah Khan Kampong Svay was supplied by water from a large baray (artificial reservoir) on its eastern side. A cruciform temple made of sandstone stands on an island in the middle of the baray, and in the southeastern corner are the remains of the 15m high pyramid of Preah Damrei, with two stone elephants at its upper corners. The other two elephants are exhibited in the National Museum of Phnom Penh and the Guimet Museum in Paris.
Elsewhere on the site you will see a peculiar four-faced central tower in Bayon style, a landing stage with nāga balaustrades, a laterite causeway, and central sanctuary which stands on a two-tier platform. The central tower collapsed due to a looting attempt in 2003.
You will have a picnic lunch on site and then continue to Kampong Thom for an overnight stay at the Glorious Hotel. (B,L,D)
After breakfast at the hotel you will depart from Kampong Thom for Siem Reap, 200 km away. You will break the journey at Sambor Prei Kuk, whose temples are certainly the most beautiful examples of the pre-Angkorian period.
Dating from the 7th century, there are more than one hundred temples at Sambor Prei Kuk, surrounded by luxuriant vegetation. Many of these temples are in ruins, some encased evocatively in aerial tree roots.
On the way back into Siem Reap you will pass over and alongside ancient laterite bridges, and also the town of Kampong K’dei. You will reach Siem Reap by lunchtime, and transfer directly to the Victoria Angkor hotel for 2 nights.
Your afternoon is free at leisure. (B,L,D)
On Day 10 you will enjoy a full day excursion to the Banteay Chhmar Temple, a three-hour round trip from Siem Reap.
Banteay Chhmar Temple is one of Cambodia’s national treasures. Dating from the Angkorian period, it is a precious and irreplaceable link to the cultural heritage of the Khmer people. There are countless Buddhist images and startling bas-reliefs of Angkorian-era life which signify its importance as a temple complex.
For 800 years, the temple remained hidden and untouched. The forces of nature resulted in overgrowth and collapse. Recent times, unfortunately, have seen numerous acts of egregious looting.
You will return to Siem Reap having visited the temple, and will have the late afternoon and evening at leisure. (B,L,D)
You will begin your final day in Cambodia with a boat trip to visit the floating villages at Mechrey. It is a 25 minute drive from Siem Reap to the port, and you will stop en route at a pagoda built in 1946. The floating villages are within a vast and impressive area of flooded forest, which is the habitat for hundreds of species. These wetlands and the neighbouring Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary are an important conservation area for water birds in particular.
There will be time for lunch and you will then transfer to Siem Reap Airport to catch your overnight return flight to the UK with Thai Airways via Bangkok. (B,L)
- How to Book this Tour
- Travel Insurance
*The US Dollar price is based on the exchange rate in April 2017. Contact us for the most up-to-date price for this tour.
Meal Plan: Daily breakfast and dinner throughout and 8 lunches.
International flights with Thai Airways
Accommodation with private facilities as mentioned in the itinerary.
All transportation by private air conditioned coach for transfers and sightseeing.
Services of local English speaking guides
All entrance fees to sites and 3 days Angkor Pass in Siem Reap
Entrance fees to Kulen, Koh Ker, Beung Mealea, Preah Vihear, Preah Khan Kampong Svay and Sambor Prei Kuk, Banteay Chhmar temples
An evening lecture by an archaeologist.
The visit of Conservation d’Angkor.
- Boat trip for the visit of floating villages on Tonle Sap lake
Complimentary mineral water while travelling by coach and on sightseeing.
- Services of Trip Scholar Mr Peter Bellwood
- Full ATOL Bonding.
Cost does not include:
Visa for Cambodia (Visa issued on arrival for most nationalities, USD30/pax, please bring 1 passport photo).
Any surcharge/extra fees for visit of the Angkor Historical site imposed by the Apsara Authorities in Siem Reap which are subject to change without prior notice
- camera/video entrance fees if applicable
Personal expenses (drinks, laundry, telephone, tips for the guide, etc)
- Travel Insurance. You can obtain a comprehensive travel insurance from Travel & General click here
- To book this tour , please compete the booking form, sign and e-mail it to us. A non-refundable deposit of £500.00 per person is needed at the time of booking. Balance payments will be due 8 weeks before departure. You can make the deposit payment by debit card or electronic transfers to our bank. Our Bank details are on the booking form. Bookings are confirmed on first come first served basis. When the tour is full we will take about 5 additional names on the waiting list to replace their booking with any cancellations etc.
- If you wish to join the tour and fly from any country other than United Kingdom please contact us for land only arrangements.
It is essential to have adequate insurance in place before your departure. This should be appropriate for your age, health and destination you are visiting.
- It includes comprehensive medical and repatriation cover.
- It provides cover for your whole trip (whether one day or over a year).
- It covers you for all activities.
- Disclose pre-existing medical conditions.
- Take your policy number and the 24-hour emergency contact numbers with you.
- If you are making multiple trips we recommend that you take a yearly travel insurance policy.
If you have any question about your cover, please check with your insurer.
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