All About Angkor Wat

All About Angkor Wat

You know the name, know it’s one of the best places to see in Cambodia but know little else? Then this little introduction about Angkor Wat is just for you. All of this ‘need-to-know’ information will assist you on your visit to this incredible feat of architecture.

 

About Angkor Wat: Let’s talk dates

In early 12th Century a certain Khmer king called Suryavarman II decided to build a temple complex that was as large as the realms of his imagination. He reigned from 1113 to 1150 during which Angkor rested as the capital city of the Khmer empire, unfortunately the temple remained incomplete when the king passed away however it was as glorious as the King had imagined in spite of a few missing decorations. Its original title is unknown but the site intended to suffice both the King’s regional temple and role of capital city. In 1177 the empire was attacked and overcome by enemies of the Khmer. In the possession of the Chams (the people) and King Jayavarman VII a new capital city was established, it lies a few kilometres away from Angkor Wat and is now known as Angkor Thom. His regional temple was also built nearby at Bayan temple, revered for the many faces that tower from the walls.

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About Angkor Wat: Let’s talk religious influence

As a Hindu, Suryavarman II dedicated the monument to the essence of all that is living, one of Hinduisms three gods, Vishnu.

 

After being overcome by the Chams in the 13th century the influence of the Angkor Wat complex transferred to Buddhism. It was never abandoned as a religious site for Buddhists which has ensured Angkor Wats’ maintenance and subsequent religious importance today.

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About Angkor Wat: How was Angkor Wat designed?

With an outer wall measuring nearly 4 kilometres and every surface covered in the most intricate art work, Angkor Wat was destined to be the most glorious structure known to Asia. High end Khmer architecture was combined with the idea that the complex should be structured to mimic Mount Meru in Java. Within Hinduism, Mount Meru is worshipped for being the centre of our physical and spiritual earth and home of the gods. The central towers of the complex represent the five peaks of the mountain while the moat resembles Java’s surrounding oceans. The reason for its westerly orientation is in dispute for scholars although seems rather obvious to the hundreds of people who daily watch the sun rise over its shoulder.

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About Angkor Wat: What materials is Angkor Wat made from?

Sandstone. 5 million of tons of polished and sculpted sandstone, oh, and no mortar just a unique joining system.

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About Angkor Wat: How did they…?

Good Question.

 

Angkor Wat PictorialArchaeologists could not conceive that the Khmers could have created such a monument dating back to the 12th century and judged the complex to be from a similar era to Rome.

 

The sandstone used for the majority of the buildings had to be transported from a quarry at Mount Kulen over 40 kilometres away, which is believed to have been transferred by rafts drifting along the Siem Reap River, an arduous and dangerous task.

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Huge blocks would have been lifted and placed with the use of ropes, pulleys, elephants and scaffolding but as stated were laid without cementing. Instead unique joints were carved into the stone that were solidified into place by gravity.

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The finer details are equally as impressive as the monumental construction of Angkor Wat. Making use of the incredible skills passed between generations upon generations of Khmer artisans, practically every surface is carved depicting scene after scene of Hindu mythology .

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The team of miners, transporters, builders and sculptors must have reached into the thousands but scholars still remain baffled at the timing of the construction. The “how did they do this?” question remains unanswerable.

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About Angkor Wat: Who found Angkor Wat?

Known only to locals, the first westerner to visit the complex was a Portuguese friar named Antonio da Madalena who in 1586 deemed Angkor Wat too extraordinary for words to describe and reaches the limits of man’s imagination. A French explorer named Henri Mouhot reached the complex in the 19th century and he began to create awareness amongst his western counterparts through his travel notes.

 

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About Angkor Wat: Angkor Wat Today

In Khmer ‘Angkor’ means city and ‘Wat’ means temple or temple grounds. Thus the actual translation of this modern name for the site is ‘City of Temples.’ Angkor Wat is more than a piece of national pride, it is an iconic emblem having been featured on the Cambodian flag and on billboards throughout the nation. As the most well-preserved temple of the Angkor complex, its religious importance has remained, which works vice versa.

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Angkor Wat breaks its record number of visitors year after year, arching towards the 1 million mark for foreigners. Siem Reap is swarmed with accommodation to suit all budgets to support this influx of mass tourism but does well to diffuse most tourist activity to a relatively small area. ‘Pub Street’ confines the majority of the backpacker’s nightly antics in Siem Reap.

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The state of the temple itself has suffered little from tourism; wooden walkways are erected to provide protection for several of the floors. With the incredible amount of money pouring in from entrance fees the government is able to keep on top of monitoring visitor behaviour, continuing restoration projects and maintaining the grounds. Then consider the amounts of foreign sponsorship for restoration, believe me, money is ample. The Angkor World Heritage Site was established in 1992.

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Cambodia’s 12 century capital city, Angkor Thom and its corresponding religious site Bayan Temple were featured in the 2001 Hollywood film Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.

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About Angkor Wat: Entrance fees for Angkor Wat.

First you must decide whether you want a 1 day pass, 3 day pass (3 days entry over a 1 week period) or 7 day pass (7 days entry over a 1 month period). The admission prices are US $20, US $40 and US $60 respectively.

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About Angkor Wat: S-O-D travel tips

Access to the grounds is free after 5.30pm allowing you the ability to picnic on the grass with romantic Cambodian couples and watch the main temple glow in the final daylight hours. Instead of heading to Angkor Wat for sunrise get the driver to take you to Wat Thom and have it all to yourself as sunlight pokes through the trees.

 

 

 

 

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Written by

Rebecca Mayoll is a ‘just turned 30’ freelance writer and photographer from England. She is the co-founder and author of straightondetour.com, a travel website with the mantra ‘find your own adventure.’ Promoting adventurous destinations, independent travel and giving a humorous insight to the World of travel is what Becky does best.

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