Angkor Wat is an enormous Buddhist temple complex located in northern Cambodia. Its name, which translates to “temple city” in the Khmer language of the region, It was originally built in the first half of the 12th century as a Hindu temple. References the fact it was built by Emperor Suryavarman II, who ruled the region from 1113 to 1150, as the state temple and political center of his empire.
Spread across more than 400 acres, Angkor Wat is said to be the largest religious monument in the world and also recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Angkor Wat, the largest monument of the Angkor group and the best preserved, is an architectural masterpiece. Its perfection in composition, balance, proportions, relief’s and sculpture make it one of the finest monuments in the world.
Wat is the Khmer name for temple (the French spelling is “vat “), which was probably added to “Angkor “when it became a Theravada Buddhist monument, most likely in the sixteenth century. After 1432 when the capital moved to Phnom Penh, Angkor Wat was cared for by Buddhist monks.
It is generally accepted that Angkor Wat was a funerary temple for King Suryavarman II and oriented to the west to conform to the symbolism between the setting sun and death.
The bas-reliefs, designed for viewing from left to right in the order of Hindu funereal ritual, support this function.
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 center 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.
Astronomy has a big influence on the architecture of the Angkor Wat complex, and the temple has a special observation area to watch the Sun and the Moon.
The axis of the outer wall around the complex is exactly equal to the solar years in days while its circumference is equal to the lunar years in days. Indeed, watching sunrise and sunset at Angkor Wat is an once-in-a-lifetime experience any travel enthusiast is dying for.
Unlike any contemporary temples, the main entrance of Angkor Wat is to the West with a long path leading to the entrance marking by guardian lions. The entrance to the east of the temple is narrower and more modest.
Thanks to the odd location, the temple faces sunsets and, hence, is adorned by the evening sun, making Angkor Wat more attractive at twilight.
The world-famous complex Angkor Wat is surrounded by a moat and an exterior wall, covering a rectangular area of 200 hectares (500 acres), and the moat sandstone causeway alone was 250 meters in length, which makes it the largest religious monument ever constructed.
To create the moat around the temple solely, 1.5 million cubic meters (53 million cubic feet) of sands and silted were moved. More than five million bricks, some were up to 3,300 pounds in weight, made it to the temple at the bottom of nearby mountains.
At the time Angkor Wat was erected, no machines had yet been invented. The strength of more than 1,000 elephants and the muscle of 300,000 laborers were the only factors contributing to the completion of the temple complex.
Classical Khmer architecture, also known as Angkor Wat Style, was applied to the construction of the greatest Angkorian temple – Angkor Wat. Banteay Samre and Thommanon in Angkor, and Phimai in Thailand also share the same building style.
Originally Angkor Wat served as a Hindu site dedicated to the god Vishnu. Over the years, it gradually incorporated Buddhist temples and practices. The site is used for both religions today and considered a sacred Hindu-Buddhist site.
In Hindu mythology, Mount Meru is a sacred mountain in the centre of the universe with five peaks. Teachings say that the three chief gods of Hindu reside here – Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver and Shiva the Destroyer.
The Hindu demi-gods or, Devas, reside on this mountain as well. The five main towers of the complex were built to resemble Mount Meru and be an Earthly space for the mythical area.
Cambodia is a country of two main seasons: dry and wet. The dry season is between the months of October to early May where temperatures range from 80-104 degrees Fahrenheit (25 – 40 Celsius).
Extremely hot winds blow in from the north and can sometimes feel like a hair dryer is being put right in your face without a way to turn it off.
It is advised that you are overly prepared for this hot weather condition if you are not already used to such conditions or come from a much cooler climate.
It’s also good to know that many places in Siem Reap don’t offer air conditioning depending on where you sleep and dine so be aware of this before making your trip to Siem Reap to see Angkor Wat.
The wet season months begin at the end of May and last through until October with temperatures ranging from 70-90 degrees Fahrenheit (2- 32 Celsius). Although these months offer a much cooler climate that is more manageable to bear, this time brings heavy rains and monsoons.
Nearly 75% of the yearly rainfall will happen during this time of the year.
With heavy rains comes many floods but fortunately, if you are staying near to Angkor Wat, this will not affect your travels to the temple as far as road damage goes.
The tuk-tuk (taxi) drivers know the roads to the temple very well and they work whether rain or shine so you have no need to worry about willing and able workers to take you to see this wondrous structure.
Just make sure you are prepared with an umbrella or rain poncho if you don’t want to get completely drenched in the middle of a monsoon.