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Angkor Wat (AKA as Angkor Vat), Cambodia, South-east Asia
Angkor World Heritage Site, established in 1992, 5.5 km north of the modern Cambodian town of Siem Reap.
Angkor Wat (Angkor Vat), its original name unknown, is Cambodia's premier visitor attraction, with an average of around three thousand visitors a day, coming from all around the world. The temple at Angkor was built for the 12th century king of the Khmer, Suryavarman the second, 1113 - 1150 AD, as his state capital city and main temple. The main temple was built in the high classical style of Khmer architecture, based on Indian architecture of the era, and although incomplete as construction ceased on the king's death, Angkor Wat is recognised around the world as Cambodia's 'Jewel in the crown' if not the international symbol of Cambodia its self, a source of great national pride, even appearing on the national flag!
Angkor Wat is the major international draw for tourists to the Angkor Archaeological Park AKA the Angkor Heritage Site. Other major temples and destinations within the Angkor Archaeological Site are: Phnom Bakheng, Bayon, Baphuon, Phimeanakas, Suor Proat, Preah Palilay, Preah Khan, Neak Pean, Ta Som, East Mebon, Pre Rup, Srah Srang, Kravan, Banteay Kdei, Ta Prohm, Ta Kev (Ta Keo), West Mebon. We did not visit them all but have linked to pages for sites that we did.
We visited Angkor Wat in late November 2007 via a road trip from Bangkok, Thailand, (Mini Tours Thailand - Angkor Wat ) and found the largest and best-preserved temple at the site to be an awe inspiring site, like no other building in the world. The Wat is probably the only one to have remained a significant religious centre since its development, initially as a Hindu temple, dedicated to the incarnate Vishnu, then evolving into the first Buddhist [Theravada Buddhist] religious stronghold of the Khmer controlled region when the temple was known as Preah Pisnulok. Under the southern tower is a statue of Vishnu, known as Ta Reach, which may originally have occupied the temple's central shrine.
The original inner Angkor Wat temple was designed with five towers, laid out in the pattern of a five spot die face, these towers are in the stylised shape of lotus buds, to represent Mount Meru the home of the gods of Hindu mythology. Later three concentric galleried temples were added, an outer wall added and a moat constructed around them all. The moat extends over two miles (3.5km) long and enclosing a space of over 200 acres (about 820,000sq.m). Angkor Wat has required considerable [internationally funded] restoration efforts, mainly in the 20th century, for the removal of accumulated earth and rampant vegetation.
On the eastern gallery is one of the most celebrated scenes, known as 'The Churning of the Sea of Milk', showing over 90 Asuras and a great number of devas using the serpent Vasuki (Naga) to churn the sea under Vishnu's orchestration. This is followed by a scene showing Vishnu defeating Asuras ( Groups of bad power-seeking deities, loosely referred to as demons).
The northern gallery shows Krishna's victory over Bana and a battle between the Hindu gods and Asuras.
The north-west and south-west corner pavilions both feature much smaller-scale scenes, mostly unidentifiable but probably from the 'Ramayana' or the life of Krishna.
The temple is admired today for the sheer grandeur and aesthetic pleasure of the architecture with its extensive bas-relief and numerous devatas adorning its walls. Most of the damage to the buildings is due to the forces of nature. There are obvious signs of recent and ongoing restoration and due to the massive increase in tourism over the preceding decade there is strict control over access to the whole area of Angkor Wat. Unfortunately for us the upper level was inaccessible as the administrators were having new stairways installed and carrying out major renovations to two of the towers on the upper level.
Unlike most Khmer temples, Angkor Wat is oriented to the west rather than the east and has generated scholarly debate searching for the reason for many years, without firm conclusion. One theory being that Angkor Wat is part of an earthly representation of the constellation Draco, but what significance can be drawn form this is still a mystery!
Visitors to Cambodia require a visitor visa. This is best applied for in the country of origin from the Cambodian Embassy, on production of two passport sized colour photos and the correct fee (Thailand $20 US - 2007). The visa is also available at the border or upon landing by air but the price is considerably inflated (even more so if you don't have ID photos).
We stayed at the Sawasdee Angkor Inn in Siem Reap.
Temples and Sites Within Angkor World Heritage Site:
Ta Kev (Ta Keo)
Items annotated (TAT)
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