The Splendor of Angkor Wat

Easily one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Angkor Wat is a destination you should visit at least once in your lifetime

Angkor Wat is a temple complex in Siem Reap, Cambodia, constructed for King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century. As the best preserved temple in Siem Reap, Angkor Wat has continued to be a major Buddhist center. The temple is the apex of the classic Khmer architecture. It has become a prominent symbol for Cambodi, adorning the nation’s flag, and is the country’s primary tourist destination.

The name Angkor Wat means “city temple”. Angkor is a vernacular form of the word nokor which is derived from the Sanskrit word nagara meaning capital. Wat is the Khmer term for temple. Previously, the temple was known as Preah Pisnulok, after the posthumous title of its founder, Suryavarman II.

Angkor Wat brings together two fundamental plans of Khmer temple architecture: the temple mountain and the later galleried temple, based on early South Indian Hindu architecture, with features such as the Jagati. It is created to signify Mount Meru, home of the devas in Hindu mythology. The temple is adored for its size, splendor and architecture, its bas-reliefs, and for the vast guardian spirits carved on its walls.

Angkor Wat is just one of the many structures in the vast Angkor complex some 40 square kilometer in size, geographically the size of modern day Los Angeles. At its height Angkor was a major population center in the mighty Khmer Empire and is believed to have a million residents.  Besides Angkor Wat, prominent subcomplexes within the Angkor complex include Angkor Thom, Ta Phrum, and Bantei Srey. 

Angkor lies in the modern town of Siem Reap, the provincial capital. With the recent construction of luxury hotels, restaurants, golf courses, tour agencies, and other many other amenties, Siem Reap has become a major tourist destination. Visitors might hire trained tour guides to help them explore Angkor Wat and the many other temples in the Angkor complex.

Angkor Wat is truly a place that everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime. It easily belongs among the Seven Wonders of the World, along with the Taj Mahal, Great Pyramids of Egypt and Great Wall of China. Once there, the visitor is overwhelmed by the grandeur and mysticism of the temple.  Neither words nor pictures can do Angkor Wat justice. Without visiting the site first hand, it’s hard to gauge the  breath-taking size and splendor of the monument.

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Oudam Em is Cambodian American writer who publishes the popular blog,, a site devoted to Khmer music, culture, and issues. 

© 2021 – Simon Andas and Oudam Emm

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