An Introduction to Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat may have missed out on being named as one of the New7Wonders of the World in 2013, but the 12th century temple – which made the final shortlist of 20 monuments – continues to be a point of national wonder and deeply ingrained pride for Cambodians as well as a travel highlight for any visitor to this Southeast Asian country.
Situated on a 500 acre site in North West Cambodia, Angkor Wat consists of five ancient towers. The highest and most central of which reaches a dizzying height of 213ft (65m) making it the largest religious monument in the world.
From afar, the ancient towers appear to rise majestically from the earth like giant pine cones. Yet those who come up close will discover the meticulous carvings and intricate level of detail that went into its construction as far back as the 12th century.
Constructed at the heart of an ancient metropolis, thorough care was taken in every facet of the design. Originally built by King Suryavarman II as a Hindu temple dedicated to the God Vishnu, 200 years later it was converted into a Buddhist temple. Buddha statues were added to the already ornate design, making the temple a beautiful collaboration of Hindu and Buddhist architecture.
The steps up to Angkor Wat are incredibly steep, to invite visitors to pause, think and emotionally prepare for the atmosphere of sanctity. The temple is said to be a miniature stone replica of the universe. The central tower symbolises the mythical Hindu mountain, Mount Meru, its five towers represent the mountain’s peaks and the moat corresponds to the cosmic ocean.
Be sure to visit the other temples in Angkor, including Angkor Thom with its famous giant stone faces, and Ta Prohm, with its intertwining trees. At 6.8km from the modern city of Siem Riep, 143km from Samraong, and 162km from Stueny Saen, this huge mystical masterpiece is well worth the journey. We advise wearing comfortable walking shoes, and you must cover your knees and upper arms. For an even more breath-taking view, pack your breakfast and get to the temple at sunrise. A truly mystifying sight and glimpse into a forgotten lifestyle.
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