In the last few months, restoration works around Angkor Wat have been proceeding apace largely out of the view of world-renowned temple’s visitors. While most tourists cross over the moat along a footbridge which connects the temple’s western entrance to the rest of Angkor Park, teams of archaeologists and students have been working together to restore the less-utilised eastern entrance, making some interesting finds in the process.
Treoung Ny, chief of the restoration workers, said his team has so far spent five months on restoration works for the eastern entrance. During the restoration, stone carvings of Naga heads submerged in the water for many years have been discovered and teams are currently working on their restoration.
Ny says the construction will take between six and seven years to complete. The process is painstakingly slow, as technicians must work delicately to collect pieces of the entrance which have sunk into the moat and be careful to avoid damaging any of the stone facade or carvings.
Moa Laor is the chief of Preventive Excavation, a department of the APSARA Authority, the body charged with overseeing access and maintenance to Angkor Park. She says the restoration projects are divided into two parts, each of which is financed with the assistance of two countries. The restoration of temple moat is supported by the Australian government while Japan is responsible for repairing the nearby temple entrance.
In total, 14 countries and 28 international teams have been involved in preserving and restoring the temples around Angkor Park, according to APSARA Authority President and Deputy Prime Minister Sok An.
The temple’s World Heritage status, conferred by UNESCO in 1992, has been instrumental in channelling funding for restoration works and archaeological studies to Angkor Park over the last two decades. Last month, an agreement was formalised between Sok An and Anne Lemaistre, UNESCO’s Cambodian chef de mission, to finance these two restoration projects to the tune of $250,000, with funds provided by the Italian and United States governments.
Angkor Park has seen a steady increase in tourism over the last 20 years, and the APSARA Authority is currently working on strategies to distribute daily visitor intakes more evenly across the temple grounds to avoid overcrowding.
The Tourism Ministry has recently released a strategic plan to accommodate for a projected doubling of annual tourist arrivals to Cambodia by 2020, calling for comprehensive infrastructure upgrades to improve movement around the park and moves to promote the country’s other temple complexes in the north-western provinces.
To contact the reporter on this story: Seth Kimsoeurn at [email protected]
With assistance from Sean Gleeson