Angkor is just as amazing as it is cracked up to be – definitely on Top 5 site in the world! A lost city found in the Cambodian jungle, that turned out to be a huge empire. Where the banyan tress still claim most of the area and the monkeys roam free. It is just like you are Lara Croft!
The fact that the temples of Angkor are not one of New 7 Wonders of the World demands a recount! But it is of course a UNESCO Heritage Site. And you know I looove old stuff. Even back when I was somewhat younger as you can see below with my monk-like haircut.
If you’re thinking I got up damn early to take a picture with only a few tourists – you’re wrong. I don’t get up early for anything! This is a standard-crowdiness in 2003…
WHAT IS ANGKOR
Angkor is the largest religious monument in the world. At one point 1.000.000 people lived there! The entire site is called Angkor; Wat means temple in Khmer language.
Angkor Wat is the largest and best preserved temple, and it was built in the first half of the 12th century (113-5BC). The construction of the complex is estimated to 30 years and it was built by King Suryavarman II, dedicated to Vishnu. The overall profile is suppose to look like a lotus flower!
The Khmer King used Angkor Wat as a funeral site. It 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 center of the universe. Its five towers is the peaks and the outer wall symbolizes the mountains at the edge of the world, and the surrounding moat the oceans beyond.
Climb! The stairs are so steep so you have to crawl. This is the point – humility before the gods!
Angkor Thom is another major temple complex with Angkor. Angkor Thom means “Great City”, and it served as the last capital of the Khmer Empire enclosing residences of priest, officials of the palace and military, as well as buildings for administering the kingdom.
The most photographed temple is Prasat Bayon – the one with the many faces. The faces are smiling in a kind of weird almost creepy way, although they are probably meant to be serene.
Most people think, that the four faces are images of the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara and symbolizes the omnipresence of the king. This is the famous ‘Smile of Angkor’.
Bayon was built in late 12th century to early 13th century, by the King Jayavarman VII, dedicated to Buddhist. Over 2000 large faces carved on the 54 towers.
PRASAT TA PROHM
The Prasat Ta Prohm Temple is one of the most atmospheric ones. This is the one were “Tomb Raider” and Angeline Jolie were filmed.
It is so fantastic, because it is still partly taken over by the jungle. The banyan trees grow in and over the ruins and shows the state in which the early archaeologists found many of the the buildings.
There are many more temples scattered around the huge area.
Everywhere there’s monks praying and making sure the place is still a living religious site. The monks we met were really nice, but also seemed like there was too many tourists! And that was then.
This is only a small fraction of what’s there to see. There’s way to much to explore than just for a short visit on the 400 km2 area. Spend as much time here as you can.
HOW & WHEN
My husband and I went in January 2004 as part of a 3-month long journey through Asia. Today you can stay at fancy resorts and fly direct, but back then it was just a few hardcore backpackers that made it there on the bad roads. We just stayed at backpacker hostel in Siem Reap, and it’s was fine, but nothing more.
Every morning, we took a tuk-tuk out to the temple complex, where we rented bikes. This was a nice calm way to get around and you will not have a chance to see it all with some means of transportation. A 3-day pass was 40 US Dollars. This is the absolute minimum – we could easily have spent more time…
Are you interested in World Heritage sites? Read more in Top 10 UNESCO World Heritage sites in Europe!
Do you think Angkor is on Top 5?