Angkor WatAngkor Wat was built in northwest Cambodia around 1125 A.D., making it almost 900 years old. It was constructed out of Laterite, a hard iron and aluminum stone, and sandstone. Construction was commissioned by Suryavarman the II, a very successful Khmer warrior and king, to honor the Hindu god Vishnu and celebrate his army's victory over Siam.
Beyond the moat, the complex is surrounded by a 10 foot wall. Inside of that is the Temple, which has three levels. The first is at ground level. The next is elevated about 25 feet and contains a lot of the murals and scenes important to the purpose of the site. The top level was the primary worship point of the temple complex and rises another 80 feet.
The ArrivalMy driver took me right in front of the temple causeway and let off there. As you approach the bridge, you start to grasp the enormity of the complex, and the detail of items surrounding it. I showed my ticket for the temple complex and made my way to the entrance gate.
This was my first encounter with the local hawkers trying to sell books, silks, shirts, photo services and guides for the area. If you are interested in the goods, you can ask your driver what the price *should* be, and haggle down to that. This is one of the many reasons I recommend having a driver, like My friend Lucky. After walking away a couple of times and hearing the laments of not being able to feed their children or how they will not survive, generally most will come to a more reasonable price. Be aware, these are common sales tactics employed to play on the sympathies of Western visitors - you purchasing or not purchasing a scarf will not lead to starvation.
One of the more common items you will see for sale is a fairly decent guidebook of all the temples with many photographs. They will start around $15 or say "$1" to get you to talk to them, then try to work on you, sometimes increasing the prices once you agree. Tip - when they begin by saying "one one", this is not an offer to sell for a dollar but eleven or 1 1 dollars. A reasonable price to pay is $9. If you're quite cuthroat, $8. They still make a profit on it regardless the labeled price on the book itself.
Level One - Outer CourtyardI passed through the entrance gate into the outer courtyard, and was humbled by the size of the area and how far inset the main temple was. A long causeway, library buildings on the sides, and access points around the walk to the temple entrance lead to level 2.
Level Two, Mural WallsThis level of the temple complex is mainly an enclosure to the third level. The level composed of mural wall hallways surrounding the primary temple center. They depict heaven, hell, and the incredible battle (most likely very embellished) showing the conflict over the kingdom of Siam where the Hindu gods actually assisted the Khmer king in his victory. The windows are adorned with cut stone pillars in them I find really interesting, and while many were looted over the years, a lot of them are intact.
Level Three, The PinnacleThe third level is the primary worship point, and an embodiment of Mount Meru, the place where, in Hindu, Bhuddist and Jain mythos, the world was created. Originally a Hindu temple to honor Vishnu, it was later converted to Bhuddism when Siam returned to stomp all over the Khmer empire a few hundred years later.
The center point of the main peak is hollow in the center all the way down to bed rock (about 100 feet down). If you are righteous enough, your ashes can be placed there.
You may have read if you looked into this temple, that there were scams and people saying you needed to pay more to go to the 3rd level. That's not been the case since at least 2016. Now it's controlled by the government authority that runs the Angkor temple complexes and it's included as part of your park ticket.
SummaryAngkor is still an active Bhuddist shrine, and literally one of the wonders of the world. Every visit is a step into another world and shows me something new. It is the perfect spot to start off your journey through the 100 square miles of the archaeological park.
This was my first journey to the temple system of Angkor, but not my last. I can't seem to stay away, returning to Siem Reap over and over. This is my happy place.