Stairway to Heaven

Stairway to Heaven

Angkor Wat, near Siem Reap, Cambodia, is the largest religious monument ever constructed.  Originally built by  Khmer King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century as a Hindu temple to the god Vishnu, it morphed a Buddhist temple by the 14th century.  The five towers of  central temple represent the peaks of Mt. Meru, the mythical home of both Hindu and Buddhist gods.  A series of galleries, terraces and steep stairways symbolised the effort needed to achieve enlightenment or reach heaven. Three sets of stairs on each side, one in the center and two on the corners, give access to the upper terraces and galleries of the center temple.  Often called the “stairway to heaven,”  the steps rise at a 70% grade.

When I visited Angkor Wat in 2006, one of the stairways on the south side had a handrail—the others required free climbing. Since that time, all but one of the staircases have been closed and access to the central tower is limited to 100 visitors a day.  The south set of steps is now covered by a wooden staircase with handrails. Maybe now I would go to the top. I wasn’t drawn to the steep climb when I was there.


Join Frank’s Tuesday Photo Challenge: Steps

A Photo A Week: Wood

Carving Elephants in Cambodia

Wood carving, Artisans d'Angkor, near Siem Reap, Cambodia

Wood carving, Artisans d’Angkor, near Siem Reap, Cambodia

Artisans d’Angkor (though it seems to have dropped the d’ since I visited in 2006) was created to revive traditional Khmer cultural and arts while training young rural people in crafts they could produce in or near their home village. Established in 1992 by the Chantiers-Écoles de formation professionnelle (CEFP)—a professional training school sponsored by the National Cambodian Institution, the European Union and the French Foreign Ministry—the project originally provided free vocational training in the building sector. In the mid-1990s, the project expanded to include traditional Khmer art and crafts such as silk-making, stone and wood carving, lacquering and painting.  In 1998 a European program called REPLIC provided financial support to create a project called “Artisans Angkor” as a workplace for the young Cambodians trained by CEFP in the handicraft sector. In 2003, with the support of the Agence Française de Développement (French Agency for Development), Artisans Angkor became an autonomous, semi-public Cambodian company.  See Artisans Angkor Wikipedia entry for more information.

When I was in Siem Read, I toured both the main workshops, where this photo was taken, and the nearby Angkor Silk Farm. Their products are of high quality. My dollars were well spent!

Visit their website: to find out more about the organization.

A Photo A Week: Wood

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