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Angkor Wat

An archaeological wonder hidden for centuries

In 1840, French naturalist Henri Mouhot came across a mysterious city of stone temples overgrown by trees and vines. Dancing fairies, faces of gods "Grander than anything left to us by Greece or Rome". Until then little was known about the ancient Angkor capital of the Khmer Empire.

The Angkorian period starts 802 and ends 1434 when it was abandoned completely and the capital moved east to Phnom Penh.

The ancient city was once the heart of one of the largest empires at the time with a kingdom stretching 400km. Angkor served as the religious and royal centre of the one of the largest and most successful empires in Asia. At its peak, the city had a million people living within its boundaries.

The 900 year old temple town was built by King Suryavarman in the 12th century. Initially built to honour the god Vishnu it was converted to a Buddhist temple site in the 14th century.

Angkor Wat "City of Temples" once consisted of substantially more buildings than we see today, however, only the temples were made of stone so they are all that remain. Amongst them are Bayon Temple, Ta Phrom. And of course, the most well known "Angkor Wat" - one of the largest religious buildings in the world. Built as a funeral temple for King Suryavarman, the temple's design is said to resemble Mount Meru, home of the gods in Hindu and Buddhist faiths. Its 5 towers represent the 5 mountain peaks, its walls the mountain ranges and the moat symbolises the sea.

The 400 acre complex contains 72 major temples and hundreds of other remains of temples and structures. In fact, its believed there is over 1000 buildings? thousands of statues and reliefs decorating the temples and this UNESCO site is one of the cultural wonders of the world.

But sandstone wears in the tropical climate, meaning that details are being lost. And although this decay may add to its photogenic allure it's important to retain the cultural significance. To that end, Angkor has been subject to rebuilding and restoration projects throughout the 170 years since its rediscovery in the swampy woods of western Cambodia.

Read More: How to Avoid Temple Fatigue in Siem Reap


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