Angkor Wat is an incredible temple complex in Cambodia, which we visited in early 2003. Its sheer scale, intricate carvings, and symbolic design make it an awe-inspiring sight, attracting people from all over the world. You can easily spend days wandering around and still you probably wouldn’t see everything.

Spread over an area of approximately 400 acres, Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world. Its sprawling layout, encompassing a network of courtyards, galleries, and towers, leaves visitors amazed by the skill and craftsmanship that went into building it.

The temple's central feature is the towering five-level temple mountain, symbolizing Mount Meru, the sacred mountain of Hindu mythology. Its five towers, each adorned with elaborate carvings, rise majestically towards the sky, creating a breathtaking sight.

The galleries that surround the central temple are decorated with narrative bas-reliefs depicting scenes from Hindu mythology and the life of King Suryavarman II, who commissioned the temple's construction in the early 12th century. These carvings offer an extraordinary glimpse into the beliefs and culture of the Khmer people.

Angkor Wat's history is as rich as its architecture. Originally dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, it later transitioned to a Buddhist temple, reflecting the changing religious landscape of the Khmer Empire. The temple's symbolism seamlessly blends Hindu and Buddhist motifs, showcasing the cultural fusion that flourished during that era.

Beyond Angkor Wat, the Angkor Archaeological Park encompasses a huge complex of other temples, each with its own architectural style and historical significance. These include Bayon Temple, renowned for its intricate carvings of smiling faces, and Ta Prohm, a temple engulfed by the surrounding jungle, creating an otherworldly atmosphere.

Angkor Wat is a must-visit destination anyone travelling in SE Asia. Its vastness and incredible details offer endless opportunities for exploration and amazing photos. For those interested in history and archaeology, the temple provides a window into the rise and fall of the Khmer Empire.

As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Angkor Wat is under the watchful eye of conservation efforts aimed at preserving its historical and architectural significance. These efforts are crucial in ensuring that this magnificent temple complex remains a source of wonder and inspiration for generations to come.

Angkor Wat is a pilgrimage site for Buddhists and a treasure trove of archaeological knowledge for historians. But for travelers, it's like a journey to the past, a place where time seems to slow down amidst the towering structures and beautiful carvings. It's truly an experience that leaves an indelible mark on the soul.

The world is vast and there is only so much time (and money) but we would absolutely love to return to Angkor Wat one day.

Shona - 2004