Angkor Archaeological Park is home to hundreds of ancient temple ruins located in Siem Reap, Cambodia. A UNESCO World Heritage site, it is spread over some 400 square km (including the forested area) and has a vast archaeological evidence of the glorious temples of the Khmer empire, dating from the 9th to the 15th century.
At the center of it all is Angkor Wat: the ancient temple that symbolizes the sophisticated Khmer architecture and the main reason why I traveled to Cambodia in 2009. I am a lover of history and everything ancient and i just fell in love at my first sight of it. It was the break of dawn when i first caught glimpse of Angkor Wat and immediately, I felt that inner peace within me. I was at home here.
While most people say you have to see it at least once in your life time, I have visited Angkor Wat three times since 2009. For those of you who’s wondering why I keep coming back, keep on reading that you may be able to understand how unique and stunning this temple is.
Its history and breathtaking beauty
Angkor Wat has become the symbol of Cambodia and the primary attraction for the country’s foreign tourists. The world’s largest Hindu temple and and the largest religious structure, Angkor Wat was built by Suryavarman II as his personal mausoleum and dedicated it to the Hindu god Vishnu although over time, it became a Buddhist shrine. History says the temple took 37 years to build from AD 1113 – 1150, using an estimated 50,000 artisans, workers and slaves.
Its intricate design and picturesque galleries
Angkor Wat is the best-preserved temple at the site and its Khmer architecture has been admired the world over for its grand and harmonious balance. It is thought to be resemble the universe: the highest level at the center of the temple represents Mount Meru, the home of the Hindu gods; the five towers on the highest level represents the five peaks of the mountain and the moat around the temple represents the oceans that surround the world.
The grandeur of the temple is not only associated with its size, but also on the intricacies with which the towers, moats and the carvings on the walls were built. Angkor Wat predominantly feature devatas and apsaras on its walls. Devatas are minor female deities who are depicted standing (such as the photo below) while the apsaras are divine nymphs or celestial dancing girls from Indian mythology.
Here are some tips when visiting:
1. Get there early before sunrise for a softer, dramatic view of Angkor Wat, such as this pic above.
2. Some days when the sun is high, it is hard to take photos of the Angkor Wat, so you wanna try and get there early, or in the afternoon. If you go there at mid-day, be mindful that the scorching sun is ruthless, so wear sun protection, or hat.
3. Cover your knees and shoulders when visiting as the temple is still being used for worship. It is a must for visiting the very top of Angkor Wat, but not really required for just going inside and around the galleries. It is good however, to pay respect to the locals’ customs, so cover up but in light clothing (esp during the summer time).
Good luck & Happy Travels!