Where: Angkor Wat Temples, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Who: Mr & Mrs Wanderlust, Tito Alex & Tita Abby
When: Oct 2012
What: Appreciate culture, nature, and history of Khmer
The temple of Angkor Wat is the number one attraction in the country of Cambodia. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the world's largest religious monument. Cambodia has taken Angkor Wat as its national symbol. A depiction of it is even seen on the nation's flag.
In the 12th century, King Suryavarman ordered the construction of Angkor Wat as his official temple and royal capital city. In the Khmer language, Angkor Wat means temple city. The location was central, strategic, and fertile, and it fit into celestial alignments. The arrangement of the structures relates to the positions of the earth, the sun, moon and the stars, and to the seasonal equinoxes. The central temple symbolizes Mount Meru, the Hindu home of the gods.
The civilization became extinct, but they left behind amazing structures and temples that was also reclaimed by nature after hundreds of years, until it was "rediscovered" by western colonizers and became a more popular tourist spot. But came 1970's the country of Cambodia came into a nightmare when a man named Polpot suddenly rose into power and massacred (some even consider it genocide) Cambodians. And because of this unrest Cambodia has been closed to the outside world. All of the unrest has cooled down on the early 90's and is still a recovering country due to senseless war, which in effect, caused poverty to its people.
As also seen from our Siem Reap blog page:
From Bangkok, you can do what we did, which was to hire a driver (for a 4-5 hour drive) to bring us to the border town Aranyaprathet. From the border town, you can walk to Cambodia's border where you have to line up for immigration.
There is also the easy way which is flight to Siem Reap International Airport. But due to few companies monopolies, costs for flights are controlled making it a bit higher than usual.
From the city of Siem Reap it is easy to find a transport mode to get to the Angkor Wat temples. You can rent a bike, rent a tuktuk that can also have driver serve as a tour guide, or also possible to rent taxi driver.
There are many places to stay in city of Siem Reap for all kinds of budget. If you want to know where we stayed, as well as our review of the accommodation, please check our post on Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Temples to see:
1. Go to Angkor Wat - his temple was built by Suryavarman and is considered the biggest Asian pyramid. It is over 200 feet high and divided in several layers. The central part has four towers in the shape of a lotus flower. This temple is the largest in the whole complex and is where the historic site gets its name. The central temple complex has 2,600 feet of bas-reliefs, including famous battles and Buddhist scenes like the Battle of Kurukshetra, the Army of Suryavarman II, Heaven and Hell, Churning of the Ocean of Milk, Elephant Gate, Vishnu Conquers the Demons, Khrisna and the demon King, Battle of the Gods and the Demons, and the Battle of Lanka.
2. Go to the Bayon - Built by Jayavarman VII, the temple stands in the center of Angkor Thom. With its 54 towers and 216 faces of Avalokiteshvara, this temple looks best in the morning just after sunrise or at the end of the afternoon when the sun shines on the faces. The temple was built on 3 levels: the first 2 are rectangular, while the 3rd is circular.
3. Ta Prohm - Still covered by the jungle, this place is exactly as they found it. Ta Prohm makes it easy to imagine how the whole complex looked when it was re-discovered in 19th century.
4. Elephant Terrace - A 1000 foot terrace of elephants. It was used as a giant viewing stand during public ceremonies, royal ceremonies, and so on. Many lions decorate this enormous path as well. Now it’s surrounded by camera-wielding tourists, and I found it to be one of the busiest sites here. I suggest visiting late or early to avoid the crowds, which get overwhelming.
5. Banteay Srei - his temple is located about 12 miles north of Angkor. The name means “Citadel of the Women” and refers to the size and delicacy of the decoration in the complex. Unlike the major sites at Angkor, this was not a royal temple. There are exquisite decorative carvings in pink sandstone and the miniature proportions are a major highlight of Banteay Srei.
Other things to know:
Rent a tuk tuk - It is best to rent a Tuk Tuk for an entire day to get around and have the know how of your driver getting you in and out of each temple. It lets you see more places in a day, and is very affordable, generally around $15 USD per person. Getting a driver in Siem Reap is cheaper than renting one inside the park.
See the Sunset or sunrise - Your Angkor ticket gives you access to the complex starting at 5:00 PM on the previous day. Use this time to catch the phenomenal sunset at Phnom Bakheng.
Angkor Wat Permit - Everyone needs a permit to get to Angkor Wat unless you are Cambodian or related to one. 1 day $20; 3 days is $40.
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