Angkor Wat is one of the world’s most magnificent and enduring architectural achievements. Bounded by lush tropical forest, Angkor Wat was built for King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century to honour the Hindu God, Vishnu as state temple and capital city. As the best-preserved temple of Siem Reap, it is the only one to have remained an important religious centre since its foundation. Angkor Wat is the epitome of the high classical style of Khmer architecture and became a symbol of Cambodia, appearing on its national flag. Listed as the UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992, it is the country’s prime attraction for visitors. Angkor Wat combines two basic plans of Khmer temple architecture: the temple mountain and the later galleried temple. It is designed to symbolise the mythic Mount Meru, home of the devas in Hindu mythology. Within a moat and an outer wall 3.6 kilometers long are three rectangular galleries. The main temple is built on three levels. The first level consists of an open gallery, with the inner wall covered extensively with bas-relief depicting scenes from the Mahabharata, the Ramayama and other stories from the Hindu pantheon. The temple is admired for the grandeur and harmony of the architecture, its bas-reliefs and for the numerous devatas (guardian spirits) adorning its long walls.
To avoid the crowds, especially in winter months, try visiting the temple in the morning. Enter by the little used east gate, and walk through the temple to exit the west gate. Although the sun is at its best angle in the late afternoon, everybody tends to wait for the sunset and this is not a good experience when the temple ground is too crowded.
The size of temple complex of Angkor is huge and it is not realistic to walk from one temple to another. Rent a motorcycle if you wish to explore the Khmer ancient civilization on your own. However, it is recommended that you arrange a comprehensive tour around the temples that includes transportation and a local guide. Various itineraries are available at any hotel’s tour desk or tour operators in Siem Reap.
Once arrive at the Angkor Archaeological Park, all visitors must purchase an admission pass at the main entrance on the road from Siem Reap. The cost of the pass is US$20 for a one-day pass, US$40 for a three-day pass, and US$60 for a seven-day pass. You need one passport-sized photograph to purchase the three-day and seven-day passes. If not, ID photograph can be taken at the entrance booth.