By Mary Jo Plouf
Angkor Wat or the city of temples in Cambodia was first a Hindu and then a Buddhist temple complex. It is the largest religious monument in the world and the best preserved. It was built in the 12th century. It is renowned for its grandeur and its extensive bas-reliefs on the walls surrounding the structure. It has become the symbol of Cambodia and appears on its national flag and it is the country’s number one attraction for visitors.
It was not until the 19th century when the temple was visited by the French explorer, Henri Mouhot, that the temple became a Western tourist destination. There is no evidence that the site was ever used as living quarters. No domestic utensils, weapons or items of clothing were found. Little was done with the site until the 20th century when a considerable restoration was begun and the area was cleared of out-of-control vegetation. There are still a lot of the old, old trees which have grown-into and become a part of the structure. The entire structure contains an enormous amount of sandstone which was probably transported to the site by raft.
Angkor Wat has seen continued conservation efforts and has contributed to a massive increase in tourism to Camodia. It is now a World Heritage Site.
Our Gate 1 Travel group spent two days in Siem Reap and visiting Angkor Wat was one of the highlights of our trip. It is beautiful beyond words and even photography cannot completely capture the enormous scope of its walls, towers and grounds. It is a site that no traveler to South East Asia should miss.