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Ancient Angkor

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French scholar, Claude Jacques, has studied Angkor for the past 30 years, while Michael Freeman has made many photographic trips there during a 20-yea r period. Ancient Angkor embodies the fruits of their collaboration and experience.

239 pages, Hardcover

First published December 1, 1999

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About the author

Michael Freeman

329 books115 followers
Librarian note: There is more than one author with this name in the Goodreads database.

Michael Freeman is a professional photographer and author. He wrote more than 100 book titles. He was born in England in 1945, took a Masters in geography at Brasenose College, Oxford University, and then worked in advertising in London for six years. He made the break from there in 1971 to travel up the Amazon with two secondhand cameras, and when Time-Life used many of the pictures extensively in the Amazon volume of their World's Wild Places series, including the cover, they encouraged him to begin a full-time photographic career.

Since then, working for editorial clients that include all the world's major magazines, and notably the Smithsonian Magazine (with which he has had a 30-year association, shooting more than 40 stories), Freeman's reputation has resulted in more than 100 books published. Of these, he is author as well as photographer, and they include more than 40 books on the practice of photography - for this photographic educational work he was awarded the Prix Louis Philippe Clerc by the French Ministry of Culture. He is also responsible for the distance-learning courses on photography at the UK's Open College of the Arts.

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5 stars
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101 (43%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 34 reviews
Profile Image for Rick Silva.
Author 10 books69 followers
April 10, 2015
Like many people, I purchased my copy of Ancient Angkor from a local vendor at the Angkor Wat temple in the midst of my visit to Cambodia.

I read the book after the trip, which is not the primary way in which it is intended to be read, but I still found it an enjoyable read that brought back memories and gave context to many things I saw on my temple tour.

The book is focused primarily on the architecture itself, and on the decorative carvings that adorn much of the Angkor architecture. There are sections that give background on the culture, mythology, and history of the sites, but this is definitely a book for people with a serious interest in seeing the unique architectural highlights of each temple.

Directions and suggested itineraries are provided. Because there is so much to see at Angkor, it is perfectly possible to do the tour and have a great experience without the information contained here. But I would definitely reread this in preparation for a second visit, as it is full of interesting features that might be overlooked the first time through.

The maps are small and fairly simple, but the color photos are great, and there are helpful glossaries of the architectural and archaeological terms used in the discussions of each temple.

This is a good overview with enough depth to make it serve as more than just a set of suggestions of sites to see.
Profile Image for Michael Brady.
253 reviews29 followers
January 4, 2014
There are bootleg versions (of unknown quality) of this excellent guide sold for a dollar on the causeway to Angkor Wat (and other temples). But this book is one you should review before you arrive and carry with you while there. It made our visit much more enjoyable, informative, and productive. PS, Be sure to visit the Rolous Group to the east of Siem Reap. Bakong and Lolei were two of my favorites.
Profile Image for Raymond.
119 reviews1 follower
February 13, 2018
This is not a book you're meant to read before or after going to Angkor, but a detailed, heavily illustrated visitor's guide that will take you through most of the temples literally step by step and explain what you see along the way. In order to make the most of it you need to follow the exact itineraries of each temple as laid out in the guide, as it might otherwise be quite confusing to figure out which statue or relief that's being described.

The book makes no mention of Koh Ker. This is understandable as Koh Ker isn't technically a part of the Angkor area, nevertheless it's a fascinating site in that it's one of the few (if not the only) step pyramids in Cambodia, with quite few tourists to boot. I think it should at least be mentioned in a book like this.
Profile Image for Audioreader.
150 reviews
September 15, 2019
Beautiful and detailed book on the complete temples of Angkor Wat, Cambodia (including temples in the surrounding area). I bought it from a kid selling copies when I was at Angkor Wat. It's really three books in one:

1. An excellent resource for planning your time there and as a companion on your journey through the temples (maps, suggestions, photos, and history).
2. A coffee table book - hundreds of vibrant, full-colour, glossy photos of the temples.
3. An in depth, almost scholarly look at the history of the temples from many angles, including architectural detail, the stories and meanings behind frescoes, general dynastic history and the conditions surrounding their construction, maintenance, and fall into ruins.
March 9, 2020
I found this at my hotel in Siem Reap while visiting Angkor Wat. I am so glad I did. It is content and photo rich. While we toured the sites this guide was helpful in getting a better sense of time, perhaps why a temple is as it is, and ideas for exploring. At each temple unless you have a local guide there is little in the way of information to a tourist. This book is a great supplement to your visit. I think reading some of the intro and construction sections prior to a visit are a good idea. Likely cover to cover before visiting may not be helpful other than deciding what temples are of high priority to visit.

Note that this isn't a tourist guide. It is to provide historical and learning. Not where bathrooms and the like are located.
Profile Image for Cam Mcneil.
48 reviews1 follower
February 15, 2020
You can probably pick this up for a buck in Cambodia. Surprisingly it’s worth doing at the first opportunity. There are just so many Temples and ruins in Siem Reap that it’s hard to keep track of it all. If you’re there for a few days this will help you plan and get your head around it all.
Profile Image for Ho Aaron.
21 reviews
August 8, 2020
This is more like a field guide book. Couple with a visit to Angkor to get the best out of it! Nonetheless, Angkor is a very romantic, very mysterious, intriguing anyone who loves history of civilizations.
814 reviews
December 1, 2022
Wish I had read this prior to my vacation, but fun to revisit the temples we did see and to read about those we didn't have time for.
Profile Image for Bronwyn Lok.
372 reviews43 followers
September 27, 2014
Full review at http://bronzelock619.blogspot.com/2013/09/ancient-angkor-michael-freeman-and.html.
I bought this tour guide off the hands of one of the sellers loitering near the temples I was visiting. I think it was supposed to be USD 1, but I got conned into paying USD 11 when I showed interest and paid up. It really is supposed to be USD 1, because that is what I heard at first, and later all over the place with the other sellers. With its flawed binding, I think it is a reject from the printing press.
This is a really good guide for the temples of Angkor. Many tour websites recommended this. It is filled with colourful illustrations of the temples, along with must-see sites and basic history of each temple. The book starts with a basic timeline of the succession of the kings of the Angkorian empire, along with the temples built under during their reign, showing a gradual change in building style and materials. Since the Hindu and Buddhist religion is highly interrelated with these temples, a simple introduction of the religion is also provided.
At the time of writing, Bapuon temple of Angkor Thom still required a lot of restoration efforts. The central pyramid was just a mess of bricks back then. It is a much more beautiful place right now, since it has been mostly restored to its former glory.
As for the island temple Neak Pean, it is no longer available for visiting. Now you can only reach the side of the central pond with the wooden fence and enjoy it from afar. So the visit instructions in this guide is kind of moot, but you can enjoy the pictures in the book and imagine yourself in there.
Other than the two mentioned above, the plans and routes provided in this book are still quite accurate. A book in this hand could probably serve almost as well as any guide. In addition, this guide provided other important info such as suggested itineraries ranging from a short half-day trip, to a full chronological tour of seven days. There is a list of where to see which type of architecture, such as face towers and island temples. Another feature I found helpful is the list of temples ranked by interest. This will certainly help in guiding your trips.

Profile Image for Divya Loganathan.
16 reviews4 followers
July 28, 2016
This book was practically my personal guide through Siem Reap for a week. Its packed with excellent illustrations (over 300), a map of the temple area and tips for travelling in Angkor. It also has itinerary suggestions and the temples listed by geographical direction/popularity etc which you will find very helpful if you just land in Siem Reap like me with an open week of just exploring the temples. The illustrations are very clear and it was fun to try and spot these in the temples. I also liked the detailed text on the architectural styles of the different buildings, it helps you choose which temples you wish to cover. I have given it one star less because I wish it had more maps. Must read for anyone intrigued by the history of Cambodia.
Profile Image for randy.
56 reviews14 followers
August 4, 2011
i dare you to pick this book up and not immediately start planning your trip to southeast asia. i have been looking forward to seeing ankor wat for sometime now, but this book has created a long stream of drool as i long to get there asap. the pictures are amazing, though some a bit too small, but the text that goes along with them has blown me away.

i am so ready to be trekking though the ruins in a little over a week, and will have such better knowledge of what is going on and what i am looking at with use of this fantastic book.

seriously. find and read this book then get yourself to cambodia as soon as possible.
Profile Image for Vivek Thangaswamy.
Author 5 books5 followers
January 6, 2013

ANCIENT ANGKOR, quiet amazing pictures.

I just thought suggesting this piece of information.

Originally, South Indian empires http://empires.findthedata.org/l/18/C...

One of the temples they built in Indonesia also similar. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prambanan

And in the book I never seen any route saying about Tamil Language. But whole Cambodia is ruled by Tamil speaking kings from India, I have seen many temples with Tamil inscriptions still exist.

In the book it mentioned as Sanskrit, but we find only Dravidian and Brāhmī script. If Dravidian and Brāhmī script is present, we can also say it as Tamil language.

Profile Image for James.
660 reviews18 followers
June 24, 2013
Ancient Angkor is an informative guidebook to the complete complex of Angkor and other Angkorian sites in Cambodia such as the Roluos group. The lavish photographs of the temples and other sites are complemented by an informative introduction by Freeman to each site.

Each entry introduces the site in question and recommends whether one should visit it depending on how much time and how historically and culturally significant it is. The guide's introduction also has an interesting history of Khmer architecture and culture that is embodies at Angkor.

An excellent resource both for planning one's trip to Angkor and while one is there.
Profile Image for Tso William.
144 reviews19 followers
January 9, 2014
I find this book immensely useful, as I used it to supplant the poor guide of the travel agency. The directions are lucid and the snippets of information about the architectural style, the Hindu symbols on the carving/lintel/pediment and history of the temples allows me to immerse myself in the mysterious Angkor Wat. Although the photos are lavishly coloured, they gave little help in illustrating the directions of the visit. Instead, I would rather have maps with little arrows indicating the flows than beautiful photos that does not seem to help illustrating the deeply insightful observations of Michael Freeman.
Profile Image for Kathryn.
28 reviews
May 31, 2011
This book is an excellent guide around the temples of Angkor surrounding Siem Reap, Cambodia. Each temple, both on the beaten tourist track [where you will most likely purchase this book] and off it is described in detail with great insight into the construction and original purpose of the temples. If you have a willing reader in your travel group it almost completely replaces the need for a tour guide. And, with plenty of great pictures of the temples it doubles as a reminder of how beautiful your trip to Angkor was.
10 reviews2 followers
September 6, 2011
If you haven't and are planning to explore one of the world's most magnificent historic remains in Cambodia, the Angkor Complex, then this book is a must read to maximize your experience. Unfortunately it is cheaper to get it from a hawkers in Angkor or sidewalk stalls in Siem Reap rather than from a book shops. Detail and insightful guide plus extraordinary shots by Michael Freeman shows us where to go and what to see when we come, helping you to avoid missing important thing. A lot helpful even compared to hiring a local guide to show you around.
Profile Image for PMP.
248 reviews19 followers
April 4, 2008
Look. If you, like me, prefer to shuffle through the temples with an informative book in hand, rather than make awkward conversation with a guide, this book will do nicely. But you have to believe me, no matter how bad the little girl hawkers make you feel, the going price for this book outside the temples is US$1, not what I paid (US$18, with a cowboy hat, and various little girl hawker commentaries on how I looked in it, thrown in).
Profile Image for Sivaram Velauthapillai.
56 reviews18 followers
October 13, 2014
This is probably the most definitive book on the ruins of Angkor Wat. It is an excellent historical guide for anyone planning a visit. Instead of showing up at the site without any understanding of the ruins, reading this ahead of time provides the history and context. The book also contains excellent photographs that one can use to get a feel for what to visit at the site (the ruins are too big to cover everything).
Profile Image for Kai Crawford.
144 reviews27 followers
November 25, 2015
Bought this for usd $10 outside of Preah Khan from a local hawker at the beginning of my trip. Not sure if I got a legitimate copy for a great price or got ripped off for a counterfeit that was only worth $1. Regardless, I was very satisfied since the quality is great (both the binding and the information). Helpful to have when exploring the temples on my own. I especially enjoyed the background info and history.
Profile Image for Josie Crimp.
95 reviews5 followers
January 6, 2013
I didn't read this cover-to-cover, but I did find it really useful when exploring Angkor Wat and the other temples around Siem Reap. It's clearly very well-researched, but I think it could be improved by having a bit more historical/social context, rather than just descriptions of what is left and what can be seen.
88 reviews1 follower
March 5, 2014
I read this while staying in Siem Reap to get a feel for the ruins before and while I was there. It had a good history of the Khmer, but was a bit pretentious and assuming of the reader's knowledge of other authors' works regarding Angkor Wat.

Helped a lot with understanding the layout, themes, and reliefs found in the ruins of Angkor Wat.
Profile Image for Ted Conbeer.
61 reviews1 follower
May 25, 2009
Decent little guide to the temples, although the $1 version you can buy all around Siem Reap is poorly printed and out-of-date w.r.t. current renovations, etc.

Still, much, much more informative than the Lonely Planet and the like.
Profile Image for Matthew Laing.
41 reviews2 followers
January 31, 2015
An excellent guide to the ancient city of Angkor and its amazing sites. A great cross between a guide and a book on the subject, I felt it really enhanced my appreciation for my three days at these fascinating monuments of the Khmer Empire.
Profile Image for Daniel.
9 reviews1 follower
July 13, 2010
Useful guide while visiting the temples. Short and good background information about several aspects related to the temples. Lots of pictures!
Profile Image for Zeny Recidoro.
Author 3 books11 followers
August 13, 2012
This book was really helpful when we were going around the Angkorian temples in Siem Reap. Besides being a useful guide for tourists, the information is decent enough to be used for formal research.
Profile Image for Katherine.
149 reviews
November 4, 2013
Read as I explored temples. This is sold at $9 or less by locals.
The guide was more helpful and better at explaining than the book. The book just shows highlights and pictures.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 34 reviews

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