Experience The Power Of Angkor Wat
Notable Features: More than 2000 richly ornamented Apsara carvings. Gorgeous sunrise over the northern reflection pond.
Getting There: Angkor Wat, Cambodia is located about 5.5 km north of Siem Reap. It is impossible to miss, for it is the largest monument in Angkor. Any tuk tuk driver or tour guide will know how to get there.
The Angkor Wat temple is one of the most artistically and architecturally exquisite structures in the world. It is the largest religious monument ever built, and it is the showpiece of Cambodia’s Khmer heritage. Rising 65 meters above the earth, Angkor Wat’s presence is majestic and awe-inspiring.
King Suryavarman II built Angkor Wat in the first half of the 12th century, and dedicated the monument to the Hindu deity Vishnu. The carvings that date from this period are absolutely exquisite, depicting an array of Hindu figures and scenarios.
Sometime in the 16th century, Angkor Wat was consecrated to the principles of Theravda Buddhism. Under the veil of Buddhims, the temple was given its modern name. The Buddhist inhabitants of the Angkor Wat temples continued to ornament the monument’s walls and towers. Their work was inferior to the work of Suryavarman II, but intriguing nonetheless.
Angkor Wat Siem Reap represents the climax of the Khmer Empire’s military, political, and cultural dominance across present-day Indochina. It occupies an area of 210 hectares. Its moat alone is over 200 meters wide, and its walls measure 5.5 km in length. Even by modern construction standards, Angor Wat is gargantuan.
The Angkor Wat architects designed the temple in a quincunx formation. A quincunx is a temple blueprint in which 5 prasats (towers) are assembled in an “X” pattern. Cleverly, the ensemble of five towers was arranged in such a way that it can only be fully observed from special angles.
Angkor Wat’s five prasats are erected on a series of three terraced levels. The central prasat sits atop the highest of the three levels, and the remaining four prasats stand beneath it on the second tier.
More than 2000 delicately chiseled Apsara (female cloud spirit) carvings adorn the walls throughout Angkor Wat Siem, representing some of the most superb examples of Khmer art and stonework. The temple’s most detailed carvings can be seen on the exterior wall of the lower tier. This wall depicts scenes from Hindu lore, including fascinating renderings of mythical beasts, animals, and lotus blossoms. Viewing these carvings with a tour guide will help you understand their true meaning.
Curiously, Angkor Wat faces the west. Almost every other Angkorian temple faces the rising sun, or east. Angkor Wat’s westward orientation has led some scholars to believe that it was the burial temple of King Suryavarman II. The setting sun is often used in Khmer imagery to symbolize the cessation of the human life.
Angkor Wat’s interior is not as richly ornamented as the temple’s exterior walls. However, the interior walls still contain hundreds of wonderful bas-reliefs, depicting an array of Hindu images. From the temple’s central prasat, visitors are able to soak in a breathtaking view across the jungles of Angkor. Standing atop the mighty monument will humble visitors, while also inundating them with a sense of power and accomplishment.
The sunrise across the northern reflection pond is a popular tourist attraction. As the sun peaks through the limbs of the Cambodian jungle, the silhouette of Angkor Wat becomes apparent. Once the sunbeams breach the jungle canopy, they illuminate the temple’s red, pink, and salmon-colored sandstone. Every Angkor itinerary should include a sunrise at Angkor Wat.
Angkor Wat is best viewed in the light of the early morning or late afternoon. This is when the temple’s stone appears especially brilliant. Furthermore, you will want to spend a lot of time walking around Angkor Wat. After 2:00pm, much of the temple is shaded and, as a result, more comfortable to explore. The heat of high noon in Cambodia can be quite brutal.