Angkor Wat, officially known as the Prasat Angkor Wat, is the largest religious monument in the world. The temple complex was initially a Hindu temple, and eventually became a Buddhist one. King Suryavarman II, a Khmer King in the early 12th century in the ancient capital of the Khmer empire, built Angkor Wat. Suryavarman II built the massive temple complex as the temple of the state, as well as his eventual resting place.
Angkor Wat was once dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, and is at present the best preserved temple in the whole complex.
The Angkor Wat temple complex is one of the national symbols of Cambodia, and even appears on the country’s national flag. At present, Angkor Wat is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country, attracting millions and millions of visitors every year. Angkor Wat is one of Cambodia’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Cambodia is a tropical country with a hot and humid weather for most of the year. The best time to head to Angkor Wat is from November to February, when the weather is relatively cold and dry. Avoid visiting from March to May as this is the season of the Cambodian summer, and the weather can be a bit stifling for many. Avoid visiting the rainy season, as many parts of the temple complex turn into vast fields of mud, making visiting the important temples almost impossible.
Angkor Wat features two traditional Khmer temple plans; namely, the temple mountain and the addition of the galleried temple. Both of these features are based on the styles of early Dravidian architecture. Designed to be a symbol of the sacred Mt. Meru, which is considered as the home of the Hindu devas, which are a class of divine beings. The temple of Angkor Wat is oriented to the west, and up to these days, religious and architectural scholars are debating the significance of this unique feature. Aside from the majestic grandeur of the temple, Angkor Wat is made popular by the harmonious architectural plan, the impressive number of bas reliefs, as well as the exquisite religious sculptures and devatas on the walls of the temple.
What to Watch Out For
There are a good number of motifs in the Angkor Wat temple complex that anyone with an eye for detail can easily notice. Among these motifs are the Apsara, a group of bare-breasted nymphs that are usually portrayed in reliefs as dancing; the Kala, a grotesque face missing its lower jaws often found on the gateways and are meant for the protection of the site from evil spirits and forces; and the Naga, a mythical serpent with many heads, found along the guardrails near the Angkor Thom.
Getting to Angkor Wat
Tuk-tuks are one of the most popular transportation modes to the Angkor Wat complex, but you can also easily arrange for cars, tour buses, and motorcycles. Passes are required to enter the complex, and available as one-day, three-day, and seven-day passes.