When we returned home from our recent trip in Cambodia, a lot of people we know were so eager to hear about our visit to Angkor Wat. We realized that so many of them are also fascinated with Angkor Wat and have it on top of their bucket list. However, we also realized that what they know about Angkor Wat is partly a misconception.
They thought Angkor Wat…is a grand ancient ruin somewhere in Cambodia (correct)…. that used to be a grand royal palace (wrong)…. and is now a grand monastery where monks live (so wrong!).
(We don’t blame them for associating Angkor Wat with monks as lots of photos taken of Angkor Wat depict presence of monks. We have tons of them ourselves.)
So we would like to share the basic facts we know about Angkor Wat and to show them how grand it really is.
Angkor Wat is one of the many temples built by the once powerful Khmer Empire (9th-15th century) in their capital Angkor. The pious Khmer Kings built their temples not as a congregation for the faithfuls but as a palatial dwellings for gods (who actually lived there in form of their statues.)
Some scholars believe that Angkor Wat was also built as a mausoleum for the King because it is facing west. (East facing is the tradtion for temples and west facing is for funerary structures.) But some scholars disagree saying that west is also a symbol for Vishnu.
So what are the monks doing in Angkor Wat?
Since Angkor Wat was once an important Buddhist shrine, a visit to the temple is a pilgrimage for them. They come from within Cambodia and from all over the world. Their presence adds a mystical atmosphere to the temple.
- One of the best time to visit Angkor Wat is during sunrise. It can be crowded but the sunrise view is sublime. Position yourself by the pond on the left side as you face the temple for best view and photo perspective. To explore with less crowd go back during sunset when the crowds head to other ruins that are more popular for sunset viewing,
- Angkor Wat is located 5.5 kms (3.4 miles) north of Siem Reap and is easily reachable by tuk-tuk, motorbikes or car from Siem Reap. Transporation can be arranged through your hotel.
- Passes are required for entry to Angkor area. You can buy a 1-day pass for $20, 3-day pass for $40 and 7-day pass for $60. The 3-day pass is good for any 3 days within a week while the 7-day pass is good for any 7 days within a month.
- Suggested reading: Ancient Angkor by Michael Freeman and Claude Jacques.
- Suggested accommodation: We stayed at Shinta Mani, a beautiful and contemporary boutique hotel and we highly recommend. We call it a hotel with a heart as it donates part of your nightly rate to help local communities. It has a non-profit component that trains locals in hospitality business as well as contributes in health programs.
Linking to Travel Photo Thursday. Check it out for more interesting travel related links.