Sunset at Phnom Bakheng

Phnom Bakheng at Angkor, Cambodia, is a Hindu temple in the form of a temple mountain. Dedicated to Shiva, it was built at the end of the 9th century, during the reign of King Yasovarman (889-910 A.D.). Located atop a hill, it is nowadays a popular tourist spot for sunset views of the much bigger temple Angkor Wat, which lies amid the jungle about 1.5 km to the southeast. The large number of visitors makes Phnom Bakheng one of the most threatened monuments of Angkor. Constructed more than two centuries before Angkor Wat, Phnom Bakheng was in its day the principal temple of the Angkor region, historians believe. It was the architectural centerpiece of a new capital, Yasodharapura, that Yasovarman built when he moved the court from the capital Hariharalaya in the Roluos area located to the southeast.
An inscription dated 1052 A.D. and found at the Sdok Kak Thom temple in present-day Thailand states in Sanskrit: "When Sri Yasovardhana became king under the name of Yasovarman, the able Vamasiva continued as his guru. By the king's order, he set up a linga on Sri Yasodharagiri, a mountain equal in beauty to the king of mountains. Scholars believe that this passage refers to the consecration of the Phnom Bakheng temple approximately a century and a half earlier.
Phnom Bakheng is one of three hilltop temples in the Angkor region that are attributed to Yasovarman's reign. The other two are Phnom Krom to the south near the Tonle Sap lake, and Phnom Bok, northeast of the East Baray reservoir.
Following Angkor's rediscovery by the outside world in the mid-19th Century, decades passed before archeologists grasped Phnom Bakheng's historical significance. For many years, scholars' consensus view was that the Bayon, the temple located at the center of Angkor Thom city, was the edifice to which the Sdok Kak Thom inscription referred. Later work identified the Bayon as a Buddhist site, built almost three centuries later than originally thought, in the late 12th Century, and Phnom Bakheng as King Yasovarman's state temple.

The National Museum Khmer

The National Museum of Cambodia in Phnom Penh, capital of Cambodia, is the country's leading historical and archaeological museum. It houses one of the world's largest collections of Khmer art, including sculpture, ceramics, bronzes, and ethnographic objects. The Museum’s collection includes over 14,000 items, from prehistoric times to periods before, during, and after the Khmer Empire, which at its height stretched from Thailand, across present-day Cambodia, to southern Vietnam.
The Museum buildings, inspired by Khmer temple architecture, were constructed between 1917 and 1924; the museum was officially inaugurated in 1920, renovated in part in 1968.
Together with the adjacent Royal University of Fine Arts and its Department of Archaeology, the National Museum of Cambodia works to enhance knowledge of and preserve Cambodian cultural traditions and to provide a source of pride and identity to the Cambodian people. The Museum also serves a religious function; its collection of important Buddhist and Hindu sculpture addresses community religious needs as a place of worship. A permanent exhibition, Post-Angkorian Buddha, supported by UNESCO and a number of individuals and local businesses, opened in 2000 to extend the religious function of the Museum.
The activities of the Museum include the presentation, conservation, safekeeping, interpretation, and acquisition of Cambodian cultural material, as well as the repatriation of Cambodian cultural property. Looting and illicit export of Cambodian cultural material are a continuing concern.
The turmoil of recent decades—especially the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime of 1975-79—devastated all aspects of Cambodian life including the cultural realm. During the years of Khmer Rouge control, the Museum, along with the rest of Phnom Penh, was evacuated and abandoned. The Museum, closed between 1975 and 1979, suffered from neglect and after the liberation of Phnom Penh on January 7, 1979, was found in disrepair, its roof rotten and home to a vast colony of bats, the garden overgrown, and the collection in disarray, many objects damaged or stolen. The Museum was quickly tidied up and reopened to the public on April 13, 1979. However, many of the Museum's employees had lost their lives during the Khmer Rouge regime. The resulting loss of expertise, combined with the deterioration of the Museum building and its collection, have made rehabilitation of the Museum a daunting task.
Under the auspices of the Cambodian Department of Museums, the Museum not only manages its own collection, staff, and premises but also supports and oversees all other state-run museums in Cambodia. Its activities are further supported by private individuals, foreign governments, and numerous philanthropic organizations.
Outside of Cambodia, the Museum promotes the understanding of Cambodian arts and culture by lending objects from its collection for major international exhibitions. This practice was in place before Cambodia’s recent decades of unrest and was reinstituted in the 1990s, starting with an exhibition held at the National Gallery of Australia in 1992. Subsequent exhibitions have been held in France, the USA, Japan, South Korea, and Germany.

Royal Palace

The establishment of the Royal Palace at Phnom Penh in 1866 is a comparatively recent event in the history of the Khmer and Cambodia. The seat of Khmer power in the region rested at or near Angkor north of the Great Tonle Sap Lake from 802 AD until the early 15th century. After the Khmer court moved from Angkor in the 15th century, it first settled in Phnom Penh in 1434 (or 1446) and stayed for some decades, but by 1494 had moved on to Basan, and later Lovek and then Oudong. The capital did not return to Phnom Penh until the 19th century and there is no record or remnants of any Royal Palace in Phnom Penh prior to the 19th century. In 1813, King Ang Chan (1796-1834) constructed Banteay Kev (the 'Cristal Citadel') on the site of the current Royal Palace and stayed there very briefly before moving to Oudong. Banteay Kev was burned in 1834 when the retreating Siamese army razed Phnom Penh. It was not until after the implementation of the French Protectorate in Cambodia in 1863 that the capital was moved from Oudong to Phnom Penh, and the current Royal Palace was founded and constructed
Preah Vihear Temple

Preah Vihear, Cambodia - Preah Vihear, a millennium-old temple dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva - the divine destroyer - has been a magnet for conflicts in its recent history.
The temple, which was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO last year, prompted an ownership spat between Cambodia and Thailand that led to a suspension of diplomatic relations in 1958 and eventually ended up in The Hague for an international settlement in 1962. Cambodia won, but even today embers of the old border dispute burn on.
Preah Vihear also provided the 'last stand' in two very different Cambodian civil wars. In May, 1975 the last remnants of the pro-US Lon Nol army finally fell to the Khmer Rouge at the mountain-top Preah Vihear and then in December 1998, the temple site was used to negotiate the surrender of diehard remnants of the Khmer Rouge.
Scars from these recent military conflicts remain, including strategically situated cement bunkers around the temple complex, bullet holes in its limestone bricks that the Khmer Rouge shot up for AK-47 target practice and rusting artillery pieces. The leftover land mines have allegedly been removed.
Perched on a 525-metre high cliff on the Dangrek Mountain range, Preah Vihear provided an ideal setting for a temple dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva by the past monarchs of the Brahman-influenced Khmer Empire.
It is believed that construction on the temple, built in several stages starting with the Shiva sanctuary at the top and moving down the mountain side in four levels, began some time in the 9th century, well before Cambodia's spectacular Angkor Wat complex was built.
At its height of power in the 12th to 13th centuries, the Khmer Empire encompassed much of modern-day Thailand.
'It included everything right up to Lopburi and all of what is now Bangkok,' said Sulak Sivaraksa, a well-known Thai historian and social critic.
The Thai empire didn't really become a regional force until the 15th century, with the rise of Ayutthaya.
Thai invasions of Cambodia, then in its decline, led to the adoption of many Khmer cultural traditions by the Thais, including the Hindu concept of god-kings and court rituals, and an ongoing fondness for Brahman-inspired black magic, especially among Thai politicians, noted Sulak.
Besides Preah Vihear there are many other Khmer-style temples to be found in Thailand, especially in the north-eastern provinces bordering Cambodia such as Buri Ram, Surin and Si Sa Ket.
Preah Vihear, arguably the most magnificent, has proven the most contentious.
The French, former colonial masters of Indochina, began delineating the Thai-Cambodian border in 1904, using the watershed along the Dangrek Mountain range as one of the landmarks.
Angkor Thum
Angkor Thum, royal city and Buddhist temple complex at Angkor, the region that served from 802 until 1295 as the capital of the Khmer Empire of Cambodia. Khmer king Jayavarman VII, who reigned in the late 12th and early 13th centuries, began building the vast monument at Angkor Thum (Khmer for "Angkor-the-Great" or "Great City") after he had regained control of the Angkor region from the Cham army of northern Cambodia, which had seized it around 1177.

Angkor Thum was built over and around buildings and temples built by earlier Khmer kings, but its layout was modeled on Angkor Wat, a Hindu temple complex south of Angkor Thum. Angkor Wat was finished about thirty years earlier under Khmer king Suryavarman II, who was overthrown by the Cham army. Jayavarman was a recent convert to Mahayana Buddhism, and is thought to have abandoned Hinduism as a result of the defeat of the Hindu Suryavaram II by the Chams.
Angkorwat history
The whole Angkor period spans for more than VI centuries, and more precisely from IX till XV century. During this period the Khmer empire reached its maximum splendor as one of the most powerful southeast asian kingdoms. In this period the whole area of Angkor was buit. We can consider Jayavarman II as the man that started everything. He define himself Devaraja (good king) and he established the Khmer empire in 802.
After him, Indravarman, a king considered by many of its time an usurper: we prefer to remember him for starting building the Baray, a complex irrigation system to bring waters in the area of Angkor. He also started to build the Bakong and the Preah Ko temples. His son Yasovarman went further in his father's project: he built the Phnom Bakheng and the Lolei temples, and with him, Angkor become the new capital of the kingdom. These two king further extent the Baray's system too.
Then the capital was moved to Koh Ker for a short period, under the kingdom of Jayavarman IV, an usurper, but after only 14 years Angkor become again the capital under Rajendravarman II. His son, Jayavarman V, was instead a great king, and with him the empire expanded to its maximum extent. Two wonderful temples, as Banteay Srei and Ta Keo were built.
After him, Udayaditavarman II built the pyramid of Baphuon and the western Mebon (we are now at the half of XI century), and here we are really close to the very peak of the Khmer civilization, two great king the left once forever their footstep in the history of this planet and they are Suryavarman II and Jayavarman II. The first king built Bang Melea but it also the one that built Angkor Wat. The second king has built Preach Khan, Ta Phrom and Angkor Thom.
As you will see with your eyes these last temple are traces of a high level civilization, with an exquisite taste for art. An enormous job that involved not only an army of thousands workers doing the hard job, building, moving rock and materials and so on. There was another parallel army of thousands of artists and artisans. Angkor Wat is also them. We will never know their names, or their faces, but what they left us fulfill our hearts with something magic. The walls of Angkor, they also speak about their lives, their customs, their salaries: Angkor was not only a religious place, but a capital crowded with a million people
Banteay Srie Temple
Banteay Srei is a beautiful 10th century Khmer temple complex dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. Located in the area of Angkor, it lies near the hill of Phnom Dei, 23 miles North of Angkor Wat. Banteay Srei is built mainly of deep red sandstone, a material that lends itself to the elaborate wall carvings which are still well-preserved today. Banteay Srei means Citadel of Women and it is believed that the reliefs on this temple are so delicate that they could only have been carved by the hand of a woman. The relief carvings on the central buildings depict scenes from ancient Hindu myth.
In fact, the buildings are miniature in scale compare to the standards of Angkorian construction. The remarkable craving skills and the red sandstone medium have made the temple very popular with tourists, and is widely praised as the "jewel of Khmer art.”
Note: Banteay Srei was removed from the main Angkor Archaeological Park. However, you must still carry a valid admission pass to visit Banteay Srei which can be obtained at the temple as a one-day pass for US$20. The temple opens daily and closes at 5:00 PM.
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