Stairway to Heaven and Angkor Wat

Stairway to Heaven and Angkor Wat, Cambodia

I can’t believe it is nearly a year since our exciting trip to Cambodia and Vietnam.  We flew into Siem Reap, the gateway to Angkor –  the land of  the awesome Angkor Wat temples.

When I think of Angkor Wat, I think of the centuries-old conflict between the Siamese and Khmer people, the loss of so many lives, the suffering and the lost culture.  I think of  the enormity of the many temples, their sacred stature, the reverential monks and the common people who continue to pray in them, their grand  architecture – their destruction and their saviour.

In 1901 the École Française d’Extrême Orient (EFEO) provided funding and took responsibility for clearing and restoring the Angkor and the ruins were rediscovered.  Angkor has since been declared a UNESCO world heritage site.

Stairway to heaven - Angkor Watt - the temple steps lead the way to a higher existence, to the Gods, to Buddha, a place of prayer in a sacred temple
Stairway to heaven – Angkor Watt – 40 x 50 cms Oil on block canvas

I tried to encapsulate these thoughts in a painting.  The predominant feature to the temples were steps – steps to a higher existence.  This painting evolved – the atmosphere was enough to portray my inner thoughts.

Angkor Wat (Wat temple) is the central feature of the Angkor UNESCO World Heritage Site containing the magnificent remains of the Khmer civilization. Angkor Wat's rising series of five towers culminates in an impressive central tower that symbolizes mythical Mount Meru. Thousands of feet of wall space are covered with intricate carving depicting scenes from Hindu mythology.
View of Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Angkor means city or capital – it was once the ancient capital of Cambodia and the centre of the Khmer empire.   The empire built many temples all over Cambodia. These temples were in honour of the Hindu gods – Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma.

The gateway to Angkor Watt
The gateway to Angkor Watt

So many magnificent temples we visited and each had their own story to tell.   There were many levels in the temples separated by a series of steep steps and a matching social hierarchical structure.

Buddha in temple at Angkor Watt
Buddha in temple at Angkor Watt

 If you reached the top of the temple, the Buddha statue,  adorned with lotus flowers,  and incense would be there to greet you.  There you would rest from the intense heat and pray   (I prayed that I could get back down without killing myself!)

Steps at Angkor Watt - Siem Reap has colonial and Chinese-style architecture in the Old French Quarter, and around the Old Market. In the city, there are traditional Apsara dance performances, craft shops, silk farms, rice-paddy countryside, fishing villages and a bird sanctuary near the Tonle Sap Lake.
The dizzy heights of Angkor Wat and a seldom seen modern stairwell assists your descent.

The temples were crowded with tourists and one of the token attractions was that Angkor Wat was used as a background shot for Angelina Jolie as she paddled her boat across the moat that surrounds the temple in the film Tomb Raider.

The scene for Tomb Raider with a constant flow of tourists in Angkor Wat, angelina jolie
The scene for Tomb Raider with a constant flow of tourists in Angkor Wat

Note the roots on the trees that seem to strangle the temple.  This was a common sight but the reality is that the roots of the trees had ‘knit’  the temple together over time and there is now a reluctance to interfere with this natural evolution.

The view from one of the levels of Angkor Wat
The view from one of the levels of Angkor Wat
Travelling by the sacred cow in Cambodian village
Travelling by the sacred cow in Cambodian village


Buddhist monks stroll through the temple
Buddhist monks stroll through the temple





Related Post: The Fruit Seller and Cambodian Culinary Delights

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Author: Donna McGee

Landscape & Abstract Artist inspired by the timeless beauty of the Irish landscape

5 thoughts on “Stairway to Heaven and Angkor Wat”

    1. Thanks Lesley – I have so many paintings in my mind to try and capture the magic of Cambodia – hopefully I will get to them all in good time. Thanks for stopping by.

  1. Donna, Thanks for the nice writeup on Angkor Wat. I leave next week for a trip to Indonesia and Cambodia. Going to meet my nephew in Siem Reap and photograph Angkor Wat which is been on my bucket list a long time.

    1. Lucky you, I hope you have a fabulous time and I can see that Angkor Wat would be a photographer’s paradise – it really does have a special kind of magic. I will look forward to seeing your photos – have a great trip!

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