As you walk down the inner enclosure causeway, you'll come to two buildings. These are the "libraries", a common feature of Khmer temple architecture, but their true purpose remains unknown. Most likely they functioned broadly as religious shrines rather than strictly as repositories of manuscripts. Freestanding buildings, they were normally placed in pairs on either side of the entrance to an enclosure, opening to the west.
After entering through the outer gopuram (gateway) of the outer enclosure, you'll come along the inner enclosure causeway. This extends for 1150ft (350m) and is elevated 5ft (1.5m) above the ground. Again, its flanked by nagas. At regular intervals of 165ft (50m), six stairways per side descend to ground level where the houses once stood.
Access to the temple is by an earth bank to the east and a sandstone causeway to the west; the latter, the main entrance, is a later addition, possibly replacing a wooden bridge. It is believed that the east causeway was used as a service passageway. The western causeway is the more important of the two and is an imposing avenue 820ft (250m) long and 40ft (12m) wide, paved with sandstone and flanked by a balustrade with raised nagas.
One of the first sights you'll come to after buying your ticket from the entrance gate just to the north of Siem Reap, is the moat that surrounds Angkor Wat. The outer walls of the temple complex stretch for 1.5 km east to west and 1.3 km north to south and are encircled by a beautiful moat almost 200m wide.
Angkor Wat (meaning City Temple), is the single largest religious monument in the world and is considered by historians to be the ultimate example of classic Khmer architecture. It's the most famous structure at Angkor and will probably be the first one you'll visit as it's the closest to Siem Reap and the first one you'll come to after buying your ticket. For me, I wasn't actually blown away by it in terms of beauty or impressiveness (if there is such a word), as other areas of Angkor such as the Bayon with it's amazing tower faces, Ta Prohm with the jungle taking its choke-hold or Banteay Srei with its intricate carvings got my senses buzzing more. That said, Angkor Wat is amazing in terms of sheer scale but the one single thing that sets it above any other structure are its wonderful bas-reliefs which line the walls of the gallery that surrounds the main central towers known as prasats. The most famous one of these is called the Churning of the Sea of Milk. Most of them have lost their original colours but some of them look like they've been restored and look really colourful.
And the now the historical stuff. Angkor Wat was built between 1113 and 1150 during the reign of King Suryavarman II and was originally dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu before that of Buddha. In size alone Angkor Wat is breathtaking. The outer walls stretch for 1.5 km east to west and 1.3 km north to south, and the walls are encircled by a beautiful moat almost 200m wide - the entire site takes in some 200 hectares.
Unusually for a Khmer temple, Angkor Wat is orientated to the west. As the west is symbolically associated both with death and Vishnu, there has been some debate over the purpose of the complex - tomb or temple? The prevalent opinion is that Angkor Wat was both - a temple to Vishnu and a tomb for its creator, Suryavarman II.
Like all temple mountains, Angkor Wat is a model of the divine — playing out Hindu mythology in both its construction and spectacular bas reliefs. At the centre of the Hindu (and Buddhist) universe sits Mount Meru, a holy peak some 750,000km high on the mythical continent Jambudvipa. Atop the mountain sits the home of Brahma and other gods of both religions. At Angkor Wat, this mountain is represented by Angkor's central tower which in turn is surrounded by smaller peaks, then the continents are represented by the outer courtyards and finally the ocean is illustrated with the moat.
In order to visit all the Angkor monuments, including those further away such as Banteay Srei, all visitors must obtain the Angkor Pass at a ticket booth along the road from Siem Reap to Angkor Wat (or you can get them at the Sokha Angkor Resort if you are stay there). There are 3 types of passes as follows:
US$ 20 for one day
US$ 40 for three days
US$ 60 for one week (7 days)
Do note the following:
- This pass is important because there will be checks at the entrances of the monuments, especially the popular ones such as Angkor Wat, Bayon, Ta Prohm etc. You will not be allowed to enter without the pass.
- All passes are issued with a picture. They are not transferable to another person.
- Fees must be paid in US dollars, Cambodian Riel, Thai Baht or Euro. Credit cards are not accepted for payment, but there is a bank counter at the ticket booth where visitors can get a cash advance on their credit card.
- Entry is free for children under 12 years old. Children 12 and above must pay full price.
- Entry is free for all Cambodian nationals.
- There are no discounts for groups.
- The Angkor Pass is not refundable.
- Validity of the Angkor Pass is between 5.30am and 5.30pm on the same day.
In any Cambodia guidebook, there will be a 'sunsets and sunrises' list for Angkor temples, listing all the best locations. The list usually includes Angkor Wat, Bakheng Hill, Sra Srang, Pre Rup, with lesser known places such as Neak Pean sometimes also mentioned
Angkor Wat is probably the best one (Bakheng Hill does not really give a good view of the main temple, which is what I guess most people hope to get), but the trick is to stay longer than most people would.
The temple is best viewed from the bank of the reservoir, as you can also hope for some nice water reflections for your pictures. Once it's dusk, most of the people will tend to leave the temple, but there is still quite a lot of sunset left!
One tip: if you do sunset at Angkor Wat (or indeed any other popular tourist places) you are best off pre-arranging your transport back as it can get quite chaotic with everybody trying to get out of the temple complex at the same time.
The complex is very large, and not one temple but a complex of various temples spread over a large area. Although it may seem large from photographs you have seen you may want to invest in a longer tour package one day is not enough if you wish to receive a in depth look at the temple complexs.
The moat around Angkor Wat is 190 meters wide and on the inside measures 1084 x 862 meters. Inside the moat there is a 30 meter apron of open ground and and then the outer wall of the temple. One of the reasons that the temple is so well preserved is that the moat protected it from the jungle. There seemed to be plenty of water in the moat; however, fishing is not allowed. It makes me wonder what huge fish might be lurking there.
In Hindu legend apsaras are supernatural young "celestial maidens" of great beauty and elegance whose specialty is dancing. Angkor Wat is noted for its beautiful bas-relief sculptures of apsaras. One of the more famous apsara sculptures is the smiling maiden on the east side of the West Portico. She is the only one of thousands that shows her teeth. However, there are many other beautiful apsara sculptures in the same area. The apsara costumes and poses vary from sculpture to sculpture.
I did not try it myself but the Angkor balloon ride gets mixed reviews. Just realize that it is a large yellow, tethered helium balloon that holds up to 30 people and rises ~200 meters. You do not get to float leisurely over the temple complex. I am sure the view is spectacular while you are up but the rides only last 10-15 minutes, depending on how busy they are. There is no doubt though that it provides good photo opportunities from the ground. It costs US$15 per adult and US$7.50 for a child. Cambodians can fly for half price.
It was my first day to tour the Angkor Temple Complex. I had just bought a three day pass. My guide was actually taking me to Angkor Thom, but it turns out that the main (north-south) road to Angkor Thom passes by Angkor Wat's west side (the main entrance). We did not stop but I took some pictures as we drove by in the tuk tuk. We ended up taking this road several times over the next three days, but the first time you see Angkor Wat, even from a distance, is a unique experience.
This is the view during dry season when Tonle Sap lake at it's low and thus this Village (Kampong - sharing the same Malay's wording of village) is accessible via a horrible condition narrow path from Kampong Rolous. The routes to this Village is either via this narrow path from Rolous (Only during dry season) OR hire a boat from Tonle Sap jetty terminal near Siem Riep.
Going via the dirt path is interesting. We negotiated for 2 motorbikes to ferry us 9KM from Rolous! (Cost us US$13 for the two bikes)
During wet season, the lake covered this dirt path & also the main middle road of this high stilt village. The water level max to the level of the top dwelling of those houses!! Best time to view this village is definitely durinmg Dry season!
Both are older & earlier than Angkor ancient cities. The Rolous group consist of Lolei (On the other side of the NR6 Trunk road & Phreah Ko & Bakung on the South of NR6
Phrear Ko is a small temple & restoration works currently ongoing. Bkung is a reasonable size Pyramid shape temple and infact this is the 1st of all the pyramid shape temple in Cambodia.
Rolous is where Angkorian Khmer empire started before the next king decided to move the capital to Angkor from Rolous. Bakong has been restored and lotsa beheaded elephant statue on each pyramid level..Probably a temple dedicated to Elephant & Phreah Ko for the buffalo?
100% Sandstone huge pyramid temple & look like Cuzco style Pyramid! Stairways more user friendly. The front portion consist of 3-5 collapsed towers and once you cross inside the main tower, you will see the cuzco pyramid steps..hehe