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Baksei Chamkrong Temple

Baksei Chamkrong Temple: A Hidden Gem in Angkor


Nestled in the lush jungle of Cambodia’s renowned Angkor Archaeological Park lies Baksei Chamkrong Temple, a compact yet striking architectural wonder. Known for its steep pyramidal design and intricate carvings, it transports visitors back to the 10th century when it was constructed during the reign of King Rajendravarman II. Just south of Angkor Thom and a stone’s throw from the South Gate, the temple is easily accessible from Siem Reap, making it a perfect stop for international travelers seeking lesser-known marvels.

The Fascinating Legend Behind the Name

The name “Baksei Chamkrong” translates to “The Bird Who Shelters Under Its Wings,” stemming from a captivating legend where a bird protected King Harshavarman I with its wings. This legend embodies the temple’s enduring spirit, making it a place of shelter and remembrance amidst the dense Cambodian jungle.

Architectural Marvels Await

Striking Features and Design

The temple stands out for its robust construction, utilizing brick, laterite, and sandstone. The architectural marvels include:

  • Pyramid Base: Measuring 27 meters at the base and 15 meters at the summit, the pyramid towers 13 meters high, creating a distinctive silhouette against the jungle canopy.
  • Sanctuary Tower: The brick sanctuary tower is perched on a sandstone base, opening to the east, while blind doors adorn the other sides. The tower is richly decorated with carvings, offering glimpses into the artistic mastery of the Khmer civilization.
  • Stairways to History: Four stairways at the cardinal points lead to the summit, where sweeping views await.

A Unique Blend of Art and Spirituality

The temple’s intricate carvings depict scenes from Hindu mythology, symbolizing its dedication to the Hindu god Shiva. Walking through the ancient ruins, one can almost hear the echoes of prayers and celebrations from centuries past.

A Glimpse Into History

Built in 947 AD, Baksei Chamkrong is one of the first Angkor temples constructed entirely using durable materials. It stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of the Khmer civilization, reflecting their architectural prowess and artistic achievements. Dedicated to Shiva, it also symbolizes the spiritual and religious devotion of ancient Cambodia.

Location and Accessibility

Perfectly Positioned in the Park

  • Walking Distance: Within walking distance of Phnom Bakheng and only 150 meters from the South Gate of Angkor Thom, it’s an ideal location to combine with other explorations.
  • Transport Options: Easily accessible by tuk-tuk, bicycle, or car, it’s a convenient stop for every kind of traveler.

Visitor Information

  • Opening Hours: Open daily from 7:30 AM to 5:30 PM.
  • Admission: Included in the Angkor Archaeological Park pass.
  • Time Needed: Plan to spend at least an hour exploring the temple’s architecture and enjoying panoramic views from the top.

Climbing Tips and Safety

  • Stairways: Though the stairways to the Central Sanctuary are steep and in poor condition, the architecture can be appreciated by walking around the temple in a clockwise direction.
  • Central Sanctuary Access: For safety, use the north stairway if you wish to climb to the Central Sanctuary.

Notable Features and Photo Opportunities

  • Exquisite Lintels: The intricate carvings on the lintels depict fascinating scenes from Hindu mythology, offering a cultural deep dive for curious travelers.
  • Sunrise Serenity: Facing east, the temple is a perfect spot to witness a breathtaking sunrise, with soft morning light illuminating its carved bricks.
  • Lush Surroundings: The jungle surrounding the temple provides a serene backdrop, perfect for sunset photography.

Travel Tips and Advice

  • Comfortable Footwear: Wear comfortable shoes to navigate the temple and surrounding jungle paths.
  • Sun Protection: Bring sunscreen and a hat to protect against the hot sun.
  • Photography Etiquette: Respect the sanctity of the site by avoiding touching or climbing on ancient carvings.

Approximately 150,000 visitors explore the temple each year, with an average rating of 4.2 out of 5 stars.

Immerse Yourself in Nature and Wildlife

The dense forest surrounding Baksei Chamkrong is home to diverse wildlife, including colorful birds, delicate butterflies, and playful small mammals. The serene atmosphere makes it a peaceful retreat for nature lovers, providing an immersive jungle experience along with a unique temple exploration.

Restoration Efforts and Religious Significance

Baksei Chamkrong has undergone moderate restoration to preserve its ancient authenticity. As a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva, it holds significant religious importance for both locals and Hindu devotees. By visiting this temple, international travelers gain deeper insight into Cambodia’s rich spiritual heritage and architectural legacy.

Make sure to add Baksei Chamkrong Temple to your Angkor itinerary for a fascinating journey into Cambodia’s captivating past.

For more information on traveling to Angkor Wat, check out this guide by Lonely Planet.

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