At the end of this month we will be making a second trip to Angkor in Cambodia. There are too many sites within the complex to cover in only one visit.

Angkor was the capital of the Khmer kingdom for 600 years or so from around 800 CE. Most of the structures were built in wood, but the religious monuments were built in stone and it is these that have persisted. At its height in 13th century, the Khmer empire covered most of the area of present day Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. In subsequent centuries it lost ground to the empire of Siam based at Ayutthaya and, possibly as a consequence, the capital moved to Phnom Penh in the 15th century and the importance of the site declined. It became known to Europeans when the notes of the naturalist Henri Drouhat were published in 1863.

The finest carvings are found at Banteay Srei, dating from the reign of Rajendravarman (944-968). Angkor Wat itself was constructed during the reign of Suryavarman II (1113-1150). The larger city of Angkor Thom, the name means great city, was built nearby in the reign of Jayavarman VII (1181-1220). Many visits end at sunset on the hill top of Phnom Bakheng (907). Further afield, it is worth travelling to Kbal Spean, upriver of Angkor, where reliefs of Vishnu and Brahma and thousands of Shiva lingam were carved into the river bed during the reign of Udayadityavarman II (1050-1066). Preah Vihear, up on the Thai border, dates from the reign of Suryavarman I (1002-1050), but because of the border dispute, is not easily accessible at the moment.