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How to best experience the temples of Angkor Wat

Updated on July 13, 2011

Temples of Angkor Wat; wonder of the world?

 This article talks of the temples of Angkor Wat; one of the unofficial architectural wonders of the world. A visit to the temples of Angkor offers a journey of fascinating history, unbelievable feats of construction and most of all, a sense of the Buddhist spirit. Based over a huge area, visiting the temples of Angkor can be overwhelming and in the Cambodian heat, somewhat exhausting. This article aims to point to the highlights of the sight and suggest ways in which you can avoid the crowds and experience the true spirit of this Khmer city.



Carving from the temple of Angkor Wat

The history of the Angkor temples

The city of Angkor lies 5.5km outside the modern Cambodian town of Siem Reap. Built in the 12th Century under the reign of Suryavarman II as his state temple and capital city, it was originally built in dedication to the God Vishnu. The temple of Angkor Wat is the largest religious building in the world and has become a symbol of Cambodia; it's image gracing the national flag. In 1177, 27 years after the death of the King, the Angkor Wat empire was ransacked by the original enemies of the Khmer; the Chams. This left the empire needing to be restored by a new King and later his son; a Buddhist monk, who converted the nations official religion from Hindu to Buddhist. Due to amount of corruption the people of Cambodia had endured, conversion to a religion of peace and tranquility was easily managed; the temples of Angkor were now Buddhist as it continues to be to this day.

Spirituality is at the centre of the temples of Angkor Wat, built to represent the home of the gods; Mount Meru. The central towers symbolise the 5 peaks of the mountain. The temples' outside walls and moat; the surrounding mountains and ocean. Architecturally the temples of Angkor are often compared to the genius of ancient Greece and Rome, displaying miles of excellent relief carvings of scenes from Indian literature. Angkor Wat is now an image related synonymously with Cambodia; but this is just one of the temples you must see when visiting the site. Angkor Wat is also surrounded by other temples that can offer unique insights into the history and a visit that you will never forget.

Angkor Thom; temple at city of Angkor Wat

Personal experience of the temples of Angkor

On arriving in the unique city of Siem Reap, the first call was to the doors of the temples of Angkor Wat. From completing a little research on the vast expanse of the site, a 3 day ticket was purchased; probably the most expensive thing you can buy in Cambodia.

Day one; you fight your way through piles of tuk tuks and silver tongued drivers/tour guides to enter the city on two feet. The first day is spent in awe. The size of the site is immense, but the view of the temple of Angkor Wat reflected in the moat in the morning sun, isn't even spoilt by the gaggle of Japanese tourists. The temple of Angkor Wat is truly an unforgettable site.

Top of the list for day two; the Lara Croft temple; Angkor Thom. This complex of temples is an adventure. Like something out of a sci-fi movie, tree roots entwine themselves around the walls and fallen boulders of stone clutter the walkways. Wanting to escape from the tourist trail, I find a little corner to rest in; get out my sketchbook and really look at the hidden treasures of the temple. This is the first time I think I have actually truly appreciated my surroundings. The temples of Angkor Wat have now come alive.

Day three; experience the true spirituality of the temples of Angkor Wat. Hire a tuk tuk for before sunrise and take a simple picnic. Choose a temple off the beaten track and experience the peace and tranquility away from the crowds at Angkor Wat. This will provide a much more personal and spiritual experience and will leave you with a memory that isn't a blur of temples, but a morning to truly remember.

making a trip to the temples of Angkor Wat your own!

 I hope you have enjoyed reading my recommendations for visiting the temples of Angkor Wat. Most of all I cant stress enough that a visit to such a magical place isnt for package tours and being hand held by an over zealous guide. Its for you to make the trip your own, go and explore, be imaginative with your photos and make sure your trip to the Angkor Wat temples is exactly that....Yours. 

Sunset over the Temples of Angkor Wat


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