Ankor-Wat, Cambodia: Travel/Tourist Information Guide

Bayon Temple inside the Angkor Wat siteAngkor Wat carvings in one of the galleriesCarvings inside the Angkor WatInterior of Angkor WatStaircase to the templeEntrance to the Angkor Wat TempleTemple inside Angkor Wat siteThe city of Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat is the most famous site in Cambodia, and probably the entire Southeast Asia. Angkor Wat is actually one of the temples found at the Angkor Archaeological Park, which includes the remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire, from the 9th to the 15th century.
The site is enlisted in the UNESCO World Heritage List, and has been voted repeatedly as one of the new wonders of the world; it is also known as the 7th Wonder of the World. Angkor Wat is by far the largest religious monument in the world. Its significance for the Cambodian people is perhaps best seen on the state flag, where it stands as the coat of arms.

Getting to Angkor Wat

The archaeological site of Angkor Wat, extending over approximately 400 square kilometers, is located in Cambodia’s northern province of Siem Reap, around 7 kilometers north of the city of Siem Reap. There are numerous tours organized to Angkor Wat from all over the country, and getting here is facilitated by the good quality of the roads. Getting here from Siem Reap, for example, takes around 15 minutes. From Phnom Penh, it takes only 40 minutes to arrive here by plane, which lands at the Siem Reap International Airport, the busiest in Cambodia. There are 6 daily flights from Phnom Penh, as of 2016, and many more arriving to Siem Reap from all over the Southeast Asia, and even wider.

Exploring Angkor Wat

As we mentioned before, Angkor Wat is a huge site, which consist of temples such as Angkor Wat, the Bayon, Preah Khan and Ta Proh, dykes, reservoirs, canals, a moat, etc. The Khmer King Suryavarman, had first dedicated to the Hindu God Vishnu, but it later transformed into the sacred Buddhist site. Its many temples give it the reputation, as well as its very name; Angkor Wat translates as “City of Temples” from Khmer.
The entire site represents a mix of the temple mountain architecture, common for the Khmer people, and concentric galleries built around temples. The temple is a representation of Mount Meru, the home of the gods for the Khmer people. The central quincunx of towers symbolizes the five peaks of the mountain, and the walls and moat symbolize the surrounding mountain ranges and ocean. The height of Angkor Wat from the ground to the top of the central tower is 213 meters. Covered galleries with columns define the boundaries of the first and second levels. The third level supports five towers; four in the corners and one in the middle- this is what first comes to mind when thinking of Angkor Wat.
The outer wall, which is 1,024 m long and 4.5 m high, is surrounded by a 30 m platform of open ground and a 190 m wide moat.

The Gallery of Bas-reliefs, surrounding the first level of Angkor Wat, contains 1,200 square meters of sandstone carvings. The bas-reliefs are divided into eight sections, two on each wall of the square gallery, with each section depicting a specific theme. Themes for the bas-reliefs derive from two main sources-Indian epics and sacred books and warfare of the Angkor Period.
The West Gallery depicts the Battle of Kurukshetra, the main subject of the Hindu epic Mahabharata. The bas-reliefs in the southwest Corner Pavilion depict scenes from the epic Ramayana.
The South Gallery depicts triumphal procession from a battle between the Khmers, led by King Suryavarman II, and their enemies, while the East Gallery, probably the most famous one, derives from the Indian epic Bagavata-Pourana.
The West Gallery is dedicated to the battle between Rama and the demon king Ravana, which has 10 heads and 20 arms, which took place in Sri Lanka and was described in the Ramayana. This battle is depicted near the center of the Gallery.
Finally, the North Gallery depicts the battle between Krishna and Bana, the Demon King.
Interestingly, the Angkor Archaeological Park is inhabited by the local Khmer villagers, who still practice rice cultivation in the area. Most of the inhabitants living here are direct descendants of the Khmer who lived here during the Angkor period.
All things considered, this mysterious and iconic site is definitely a must-see in Cambodia. A nice idea might be booking one of many tours to the surrounding villages, where Khmer people still practice the same traditional ways of their famous ancestors.