Thursday, March 18, 2010

From the top

A look down the 50 steep steps leading to the Bakan at Angkor Wat
The top level of Angkor Wat, the Bakan, reopened in the middle of January. Last week was my first opportunity to go to the top since it closed back in October 2007. Regulations have been introduced to restrict numbers of tourists, as well as time limits and rules on dress, etc, so a visit is not like it was 'back in the day'. Nevertheless, it was pleasing to be able to look out once again across the treeline that surrounds the temple and then into the heat-haze on the western side, as you look back towards the entrance and the moat. The guards can be annoying, asking you to move along if you stand still for more than a couple of minutes, but with just 100 visitors allowed at the top at any one time, they are keen to whizz you through to get the next 100 up and out. Some of the devatas on the walls are in wonderful condition and it would be nice to think that any renovation that did take place during the years of closure included some delicate touches to these beautiful celestial beings rather than just the construction of a wooden walkway, stairs and window barriers. The fifty steps, on the southeast corner, that take you to the top, and back down again, are fairly steep and you need to keep your wits about you when walking along the wooden walkway, as there's a bit of drop either side. In addition, the top level is closed to tourists on Buddhist holy days, which are tied into the religious calendar but which change every week, all very confusing. The current reopening of the top level is a trial, so it's not a given that it will remain open indefinitely. Tip - if you visit the Bakan in the afternoon, and have to wait in the queue, those in the front of the queue will be in shade.
One of the beautiful devata on the walls of the Bakan. There are 1,780 of these celestial goddesses on the walls of Angkor Wat.
A look at the queue stretching around the northeast corner of Angkor Wat
Just beyond the northern section of the central sanctuary of Angkor Wat lies the treeline
The majestic central tower, topped by a lotus bud, rises 55 metres from ground level
A look into the heat-haze of the western entrance to Angkor Wat
A Buddha meditating under the protection of a naga in the Bakan
Renovation work is ongoing at Angkor Wat, next to one of the inner libraries
A look at the crowd of tourists taking a breather in the shade having just completed their visit to the Bakan
This is the only access point to the Bakan, on the southeast corner of the 2nd storey of Angkor Wat. 100 people are allowed up as 100 come down.

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