Angkor Wat – a symbol of history and culture

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One of the most popular and iconic sites in Cambodia (to the point of appearing on its flag), Angkor Wat attracts visitors with its beautiful architecture, historical and religious importance, and backdrop of marvelous nature. Located 6km north of Siem Reap, the Angkor Wat temple complex was built on an area of roughly 400km2, bordered by a deep and wide moat. This vastness earned it the status of the largest religious building in the world. Initially dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, Angkor Wat later became an important place of worship and pilgrimage site for Buddhists owing to the religion’s immense popularity. It remains an active and significant religious center, partially due to its well-preserved condition, giving insight into Khmer architecture and spiritual life. 

If the Greeks hold that Mount Olympus was home to their gods, then the Hindu pantheon dwells in Mount Meru, which Angkor Wat was structured to resemble. Scholars have theorized that it was built as an imperial tomb, as it faced West – the direction of death. However, as Vishnu was also associated with the west, the current thinking is that the complex may have been intended to be a tomb and a mausoleum. (Suryavarman II, who ordered its construction, never did get to use it, since he died in battle.) Its central five towers symbolize the five peaks of the mountain, while the walls and moat stand for the mountain ranges and ocean that surround this center of the universe. The upper areas of the temple remain forbidding with their steepness, symbolizing the difficulty in reaching the abode of the gods. They used to be exclusively for the upper classes of Khmer society; today they are open to a limited number of people with a queuing system.

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The complex was built using blocks of sandstone stacked together in a natural manner and bonded using an unknown material. Figures of gods, apsaras (dancing celestial maidens of the air and water), devatas (deities standing still and facing forward as temple guardians), asuras (demigods), warriors, and other mythological archetypes are emblematic of the Angkor Wat style of decoration. Even though the decorations are considered more conservative and static compared to earlier work, they are still very lively depictions. There are roughly over 3000 apsaras in Angkor Wat, yet each one is still distinctive, with no two decorations having the same hairstyle and position.  

The best time to visit Angkor Wat is the dry season, between December and May. The peak season is between November and February because of the cooler weather. Tourists should dress comfortably but respectfully, without revealing or torn clothes. A good rule is that upper arms should be covered and shorts should reach the knees. Touching or sitting on ancient structures, entering restricted areas, and disrespecting monks are not allowed. Archaeologists, conservators, and the authorities have the daunting task of defending this UNESCO World Heritage against the ravages of time, thieves, war, and tourism, but a little courtesy from every visitor will go a long way.

Reviewed by

Diep Van

Phone: +84901166884


Diep Van

Founder & Photography Guide

Specialties: Culture, landscape, portrait, hiking, active and adventurous tour

Besides my unlimited passion for traveling, a professional tour guide for over a decade, I have been taking photographs since sitting at Hanoi of the University of Culture in the early 2000s. Photography started as a hobby but it was seriously taken due to my work relations and my significant passion for the beauty of our world, especially in Southeast Asian parts such as Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar.

Within a few years of taking photographs, my works began to be recognized by many reliable international publications such as AFAR Travel, The Times, and The Daily Telegraph newspaper. In addition, I continuously add to my growing profile by winning numerous major awards: 3rd Position of The Independent Photographer 2018, 1st Position of Amateur Photographer of the year 2018, Grand Prize Winner of the AFAR Travel Photography 2019, and a Gold Award of San Francisco Bay International Photography 2020.

I photograph a wide variety of subjects, from travel to landscapes to street scenes. I enjoy documenting the East’s rich cultural heritage and its land soaked in glorious sunrise or sunset light in remote and secluded spots. And, I am very happy to share my knowledge and experience with you. You can visit Luminousvietnamtour to explore tour!

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