Route 66, A Journey through Angkor

There were a lot of Angkorian Kings so let’s keep today simple with 10th century Y1 (Yasovarman) who built a big baray (Angkorian reservoir), such that R1 (Rajendravarman) could build more temples and a city a bit later including Preah Rup, where our journey starts.

Preah Rup

The Funan, the Chenla then the Angkorians built roads that extended into Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and beyond. Roads to feed Angkor and the outlying cities, communication routes to control and if necessary, armies to mobilize.

Another option for Route 66

This morning we’ll explore one of these routes as it heads from Preah Rup to Chau Srei Vibol but were we to follow it eventually Wat Phu in Laos. Once an Angkorian highway now a red earth road along the banks of the usually empty East Baray.

Our way is lined with sugar palm trees, rice paddies and stilted villages. As much a part of our adventure as the mysterious stone cities we’re going to see.

Banteay Samrei

We’ve a two-hundred-year detour to Banteay Samre, built by a high official in the 12thcentury, the time of Angkor Wat. It’s off the main tourist circuit, restored and mostly intact. 

Back on its banks, the corner of the Baray was marked by a Sanscrit engraved stele that proclaimed it protected by the Ganga, Goddess of the Ganges. She probably had something to do with the Angkorian reservoir that provided a catchment for rainfall from the Kulen Hills to the North that was channeled into the Baray.

Prasat Tor

Where there’s a bridge there’s a temple and Prasat Tor is just outside the dam walls but crossed by a stream and hidden in vegetation so seldom seen. Its story is told by the Sanscrit stone stele now held in Angkor Conservation.

Angkorian Reservoir

The reservoir laps at the base of Phnom Bok, a 200m hill with a 10th century temple on top. On a clear day the view to the Tonle Sap is spectacular and the cream, fragrant frangipani growing from its stone structure gorgeous. But treat the 600 steps with respect. 

Phnom Bok Temple

The lake is on our left and the hill to the right as we stumble on the Hidden Lady or Neak Leang Temple. Laterite blocks form a base to blackened bricks adorned by sandstone lintels, a perfect spot to contemplate the morning’s journey back in time.

Prasat Neak Leang

Route 66 crosses the road and continues east over stone bridges to what is now in the rainy season an island temple set amid a 4 kmbaray.

There’s little known about Chau Srei Vibol because no stele remain to tell the story but the structure is similar to Angkor Wat so the first half of the 12th century. Set on a small hill or mound its stone structures strewn around a modern pagoda with some particularly graphic depictions for those destined to the underworld.

Prasat Chau Srei Vibol


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