Also known as: the anti-climax.
On the advice of Lonely Planet, Nana and I saved Angkor Wat for our last day of touring . . . but on the advice of our flagging legs and wobbly stomachs, we did Angkor Wat in the morning and left some less important temples for the afternoon.
And a good thing, too: while we had planned about six small temples for our last hurrah, we only made it through three before giving up and heading back to the hotel. Taken together, they were a good farewell to the temples of Angkor, covering all the major temple styles: the temple mountain of Pre Rup, the (former) island temple of East Mebon, and the forest ruins of Ta Som & Preah Khan.
Pre Rup was dedicated to Shiva in the 960s as the state temple of Rajendravarman II. It is a classic temple mountain, with the addition of a few galleries more typical of later temple pyramids like Angkor Wat.
|It's every bit as steep as it looks.|
|Just ask Nana!|
|Pre Rup has been the site of much conservation, but little restoration. That's another way of saying there aren't any trees, but a lot of the towers are still in bad shape.|
|A carved false door atop Pre Rup.|
|An apsara who has seen better days.|
|You can see East Mebon from the top of Pre Rup - it's only a few hundred yards due north.|
|You can also faintly make out the central tower of Angkor Wat on a clear day. Unfortunately, in the tropics, "clear" also means "blisteringly hot."|
|Getting down without falling is almost as tough as getting up without passing out.|
East Mebon was dedicated to Shiva in the 950s by Rajendravarman II. It used to be an island temple in the center of the East Baray reservoir, but the reservoir has since been drained.
If it looks a lot like Pre Rup, that should be no surprise: built by the same guy, only a decade apart. But the shorter East Mebon, being less exposed, is in significantly better shape.
|Each corner is guarded by a friendly lichen-encrusted elephant.|
|These apsara were carved directly into the brick, then overlaid with stucco. Of course, the stucco has long since fallen off.|
|A well-preserved lintel depicting Indra.|
|A restored lintel of Garuda atop a decorative false door.|
Ta Som & Preah Khan
Ta Som & Preah Khan are two of the smaller Angkor Thom temples commissioned by Jayavarman VII, who is most famous for the face-towers of the Bayon.
|This guy. You remember him.|
Both temples date to the 12th century, and both are largely deserted, as the nearby Bayon itself draws off most of the crowds. In addition, both exhibit Jayavarman II's chaotic blend of Buddhism and Hinduism: while the central sanctuaries of each temple were Buddhist, each includes satellite shrines and temples to various Hindu deities.
I won't really bother to differentiate here, partly because I wasn't careful about keeping track of the photographs. In any case, the overall impression is the same: woods and ruins, a lot like the larger and more famous Ta Prohm.
|The balustrade along the causeway into Preah Khan. AKA, more Churning of the Sea of Milk!|
|More Garuda + Naga = Buddhist Hindu Happy Friendly Fun Time!|
|More huge trees growing out of walls!|
|More Nana looking through ruined doorways!|
|More atmospheric close ups!|
|More detail on obscure bas relief carvings than you ever thought you would read in your life!|