My favourite place I have had the opportunity to explore is Angkor Wat Temple in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Angkor Wat is a huge temple complex built for King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century as his state temple and capital city. It is here that my mother and I spent 3 amazing days exploring the ancient capital of the Khmer Kingdom. We got to walk through the ancient passageways and even clamber over the fallen temple walls as we tried to photograph every nook and cranny of this vast place.
The temple structure is huge and it is photos of this structure that is used to advertises Cambodia.
Angkor is a spectacular landscape of crumbling stone relieves, great towers, encroaching jungle roots, orange-clad monks and spectacular sunset reflections. It is one of those places that I have seen in movies and put at the top of my travel-wish list for someday…. So when my mother came to visit me in Vietnam I made Angkor Wat the top priority of our big Asia adventure!! I don’t think my mother realized how much walking she was in for when she volunteered to go with me. But in the end she agreed it was definitely worth it.
Stretching over more than 400 square kilometers this temple complex includes not only temples but also forests and jungles. Angkor Wat contains the magnificent remains of the Khmer Empire that lay forgotten for ages so parts had actually been reclaimed by nature. I had seen some of these temples in movies like Tomb Raider and couldn’t wait to see them for myself. Armed with water bottles, cameras and good walking shoes my mother and I entered Angkor Wat and started our adventure.
Angkor Wat, is believed to be the largest religious structure in the world and although we spent 3 days here we didn’t even get to see half of the amazing structures it has to offer. As the temples are sometimes set quite a distance apart we got ourselves a tuk-tuk driver for the 3 days we spent here. He was amazing!! He ended up being very informative and took us around all the best temple structures and pointed out fabulous places for photo opportunities.
As the best-preserved temple at the site, Angkor Wat Temple is the only one to have remained a significant religious center since its foundation. It was first Hindu, dedicated to Vishnu, then became Buddhist. While walking through there are people worshiping and praying next to various structures and this made me feel a bit uncomfortable with taking photos inside the temple.
The temple is the epitome of the high classical style of Khmer architecture. It has become a symbol of Cambodia, appearing on its national flag, and is the country’s prime attraction for visitors. The temple itself is quite crowded, especially inside so it was a bit hard for us to take photos inside. Luckily as we wondered through the structure we did come upon empty passageways where we could imagine that we were all alone in this magnificent ruined complex.
My mother and I had so much fun walking through the beautiful arched walkways that looked like they stretched on for ever! The walkways were quite deserted and offered fabulous photo opportunities. These pillars used to be covered in reliefs but hardly any are visible anymore.
This huge temple is built within a moat and has an outer wall of 3.6 km long. It was winter so the water level was low and the surrounding fields were all brown adding to the “forgotten” feeling. The temple is admired for the grandeur and harmony of its architecture, its extensive bas-reliefs and for the numerous devatas (guardian spirits) adorning its walls. Some of these relieves are still in amazing conditions and others are so weather worn that it was quite difficult to figure out what they were.
There are three rectangular galleries, each raised above the next and at the center of the temple stands a collection of towers. I think the view from above would have been spectacular but the stairways to the top had been closed off to tourists. I think my mom was very glad of this fact as we did a lot of walking that day and it was quite hot outside.
Unlike most Angkorian temples, Angkor Wat is oriented to the west, something that still puzzles scholars. But this makes it the perfect temple to come and watch the sun rise over. A spectacle we couldn’t wait to see the next morning.