Time ceases to move at Angkor Wat as you step out of modern civilization into an early 12th-century temple complex in the central Cambodian jungle. In fact, the jungle is actually growing in the Angkor Wat Temples—literally! Tree roots and branches are growing through, on top and inside the temples, making for a scene of culture and nature intertwined.
It's hard to explain a place that demands such attention based on its sheer size, and sustains your interest in a gripping search over the layers of detailed stone carvings. The Angkor Wat complex encompass over a hundred stone temples in total, and the Angkor Wat Temple is the largest and best preserved of these ruins. This enduring masterpiece was built initially for King Suryavarman II as the capital of the Khmer Empire. It has now the assumed image of Cambodia, and is the dedicated symbol to the Buddhist following. As one of the largest religious complexes in the world, Angkor Wat's outer wall spans an impressive 3.6 km (2.2 miles) long, and encloses 203 acres of Khmer-style architecture. These walls also lay claim to the longest bas-relief sculptures in the world, with countless sprawling stories of Hindu mythologies. Angkor Wat is proudly honoured by Cambodians, and has been depicted in all of the Cambodian flags since 1863. As such, Angkor Wat Temple is the only building to ever appear on a national flag.
An Angkor Wat tour by tuk tuk allows you swift access to other temples, bringing you deeper into ageless obscurity. Many visitors begin their day at Angkor Thom crossing over a primitive bridge and under an impressive carved entry gate. Spanning over 9 km² Angkor Thom launches visitors off to its several temples and ruins with the Bayon Temple. The persistent carvings of King Jayavarman VII during meditation make the Bayon Temple feel almost familiar. With over 200 faces placed on top of all the temple's towers in every direction, they were believed to ward off evil. Other interesting sites within Angkor Thom are the lines of elephants along the the Terrace of Elephants, as well as the Baphoun Temple.
Be sure to have your Angkor guide take you to Ta Prohm, as it has self-evidently emerged as one of Angkor's best temples to visit. Ta Prohm's popularity is drawn from is untouched nature. Unlike other temples in and around Angkor Siem Reap, at Ta Prohm has been infiltrated by the jungle not only within, but on top or and around it. It's rugged nature makes you feel like a proper explorer, no matter how many others have gone before.
Angkor Wat Temple is located 5.5 km north of the city of Siem Reap. It continues to attract an ever-growing amount of tourism, and consequently, since the 1990s, Angkor Wat has been involved in many conservation efforts. Twenty-eight percent of all Angkor tour ticket revenue is spent on Temple preservation and maintenance. Many believe the best time to visit Angkor Wat is during the cool dry season from December to March, but keep in mind this will also be high tourist season. The alternative is to visit in November when it is the rainy season, which still allows for a good day of sightseeing minus the crowds (before the rain sets in mid afternoon).
Odds n' Ends
Angkor Wat is located just outside of Siem Reap, and you can buy passes to enter on site (ranging from 1 to 7 days of consecutive use). You can hire Angkor guides for about C$20 to explain the bas-relief sculptures and Khmer architecture. Alternatively, an Angkor tuk tuk driver will cost about C$10, and they will take you to all the sites. Your driver will wait for you outside the various ruins; and they can also be a good source of information too.
Be conscious of the heat in high season and take plenty of drinking water with you. There are places to buy refreshments, including bottled water, but these stalls are not as widely available as you would imagine. Honestly, the heat is sweltering during the peak season, and you should rest in as many shaded areas as possible.
Step into three incredible countries with diverse landscapes and explore their hidden gems and famous landmarks, all providing moments to be captured for eternity. From the back lanes and chaos of Bangkok to the serenity of Angkor, and the French influence of Luang Prabang, you will be amazed at the variety in this cross-country adventure.
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A sunset is one thing, but a sunset that falls over an ancient city from your perch a top some ruins is another. Just down the road and up a hill from the famed Angkor Wat, is Phnom Bakheng, widely regarded as the best place to view the sunset or rise within the Angkor region. After a long and dusty day of temple trekking the 20 minute climb will seem quite exhaustive, and you might even contemplate the value of the effort, but it is well worth it. For those that can't quite fathom the extra effort after a long ...1 miles away.
Cambodia's well and truly back on travellers' wish lists, and once you've marvelled at the Silver Pagoda and the stone gods of Angkor Wat, plunged into waterfalls, explored the wild Cardamom mountains and been massaged by blind masseurs in Siam Riep, it'll be a permanent fixture on yours.
THERE is a moment at Angkor, the vast complex of ancient temples in the Cambodian jungle, that every visitor hopes for. Perhaps it comes while passing under a 60-foot-high gate carved a thousand years ago...
Predawn, the reflections of thousands of stars glitter in the moat surrounding the temple -- a black, silent silhouette against the night sky, a humbling reminder of the greatness and also of the smallness of man.
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