According to research, Angkor with its countless temples was once the largest pre-industrial city. Today the area is Cambodia’s most important tourist attraction.
What do you think King Suryavarman II thinks about selfie sticks? Surely he would not have dreamed of the construction of Angkor Wat that almost 900 years later would be flooded by multitudes of tourists pushing the bars with smartphones in front of them to document that they have visited what is probably the most famous temple in the world.
We follow the path of the kings and discover the most important temple of Angkor. And here are the top main temples you shouldn’t miss while visiting Angkor Archaeology Park.
Angkor Wat: Cambodia’s national symbol
Originally built as a Hindu temple, later rededicated as a Buddhist sanctuary, Angkor Wat is now a Cambodian national symbol – it adorns the country’s flag – and one of the country’s tourist magnets. As such, you never have the temple to yourself: groups of study travelers, Asian tourists under umbrellas, backpackers in flip flops – a colorful mix of tourists pushes their way through Angkor Wat’s gates and corridors, past ornate wall friezes and up to the dome. Fortunately, most of the temple’s visitors are not keen to explore, so it becomes much quieter when you leave the main paths and explore the huge temple area via side passages and stairs. Instead of looking at the screens of smartphones on selfie sticks, you can admire the reliefs here in peace.
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Angkor Thom: The old capital
While tourists flock to Angkor Wat in droves, many other temples in the approximately 1,000 sanctuaries are much quieter. Some of them are only small and half-ruined, while others tower up like imposing pyramids. Stones overgrown with moss are scattered everywhere, on some you can still see reliefs of animals or geometric patterns. You can find a particularly large number of these in Angkor Thom, the former capital of the Khmer Empire. Here you hike along paths littered with historic pottery shards, past temples in various stages of decay. The rest of the area was once made up of wooden buildings. The Khmer only built their temples out of stone, even the king’s palace was once made out of wood and has long since fallen victim to time.
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Ta Prohm: The power of nature
Ta Prohm temple, one of the most visited shrines after Angkor Wat, also shows traces of time. It is worth getting up early to visit the temple before the first rush, which can otherwise lead to traffic jams in the narrow aisles.
While the archaeologists put a lot of effort into restoring most of the sanctuaries as faithfully as possible to their original appearance, Ta Prohm decided to preserve it as it was once rediscovered in the jungle: half-decayed and overgrown by mighty strangler figs, their Roots that have incorporated whole parts of the building like creepers. Ta Prohm is an impressive symbol of the power of nature.
Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm are just the most famous representatives of the Angkor temples. If you take your time, you can discover a lot more on the approximately 200 square kilometer area and immerse yourself in the history of the ancient high culture of the Khmer.
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