A UNESCO World Heritage site and Lara Croft’s first destination on her mission to find Triangle of Lights, Angkor Wat is on the bucket list of many.
The park is spread over 400 sq km and contains up to 45 temples you can see all in one week! You can buy one day ($20), three-day ($40) and seven-day ($60) passes at the main entrance gate.
How to Get There
The best and time-saving way to visit the area is by tuk-tuk. The price varies depending which temples you want to see and starts with $20.
Things to note:
- Sunrise, sunset and visiting some remote temples costs extra.
- If you are determined enough or can’t afford a tuk-tuk, you can rent a bicycle in the city.
- Remember that temples are several kilometers away from each other.
- Guides are available at the entrance of the main Wat.
Whatever you decide, make a plan, do the research, charge your camera batteries and buy plenty of water!
Mariam and I decided to take a tuk-tuk for a small tour consisting of five major temples. The tour starts with Angkor Wat – the grandest and most popular temples of all. It was a capital city of then ruling Khmer Empire and a state temple of the king.
The modern name, Angkor Wat, means ‘Temple City’ or ‘City of Temples’.
First built as Hindu, it later on, became Buddhist. The King Suryavarman II stopped the tradition of building temples for Shaiva and dedicated Angkor Wat to Vishnu.
The temple is a powerful symbol of Cambodia and a source of great national pride. It adorns national flags since the introduction of the first version circa 1863.
Angkor Wat is a miniature replica of the universe in stone and represents an earthly model of the cosmic world. The central tower rises from the center of the monument symbolizing the mythical mountain, Meru, situated at the heart of the universe.
Its five towers correspond to the peaks of Meru. The outer wall corresponds to the mountains at the edge of the world, and the surrounding moat the oceans beyond.
Walking Within the Temple
While walking around it, you can see countless examples of bas-relief frescos, showing series of large-scale scenes from the Hindu mythology.
Additionally, you can see Devatas and Apsaras on the columns or walls of the temples. Deva is a Hindu term for deity, while devatas are a kind of smaller devas.
An Apsara is a female spirit of the clouds and waters in Hindu and Buddhist mythology. Translated into English as a nymph, Apsaras are beautiful, supernatural female beings. They are youthful, elegant and superb in the art of dancing; they entertain and sometimes seduce gods and men.
The Angkor Thom Complex
The last capital of the Khmer Empire, the complex is home to The Bayon Temple, Terrace of the Elephants and Royal Palace.
At the center of the Kingdom, area rises a Golden Tower Bayon, famous for its smiling face carvings. More than twenty smaller towers and several hundred stone chambers border temple.
Over 2,000 large faces carved on the 54 tower gives this temple its noble character. Locals believe that four faces on each of the tower are images of the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, signifying the omnipresence of the king. A broad forehead, downcast eyes, wide nostrils, thick and curved lips reflect the famous ‘Smile of Angkor.’
‘Undisputed capital of the kingdom of the Trees’, Ta Prohm, is the Angor’s most photographed temples because of its roots over the buildings. It also was a shooting spot for Hollywood’s hit Tomb Raider.
The area included 260 statues of gods, 39 towers with pinnacles and 566 groups of residences. At the time of our visit, the big part of it was under construction, but we still managed to take a picture at the world known tree.
Phnom Bakheng was the last stop on our tour – the famous sunset point. However, we were exhausted and decided not to hike a hill and just go home. We had a flight to Kuala Lumpur the next day.
Thus, if not in a mood of hiking, you can have a ride on an elephant for only $20.