After the terrible reign of Pol Pot in the second half of the 20th century, Cambodia is now recovering and becoming an increasingly popular destination for tourists. When visiting the country, you cannot miss out on Angkor. This is an enormous archaeological site with 100 temples built between the 9th and the 15th century, and noted on the UNESCO world heritage list.
Inexpensive and easy to reach
Angkor lies in the Siem Reap province, which is easy to reach by plane from Phnom Penh, Bangkok, Singapore, Ho Chi Minh City or Vientiane. Another possibility is to take a bus from Phnom Penh, which takes you 5-7 hours and costs about 2£, or to hop on a ferry from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, which takes 4-6 hours and costs between 11£ and 15£.
Remains of a forgotten empire
Angkor has the largest complex of temples on the world, and used to be the religious centre of the Khmer empire, a major source of power in South-East Asia during a period of five centuries. From Angkor, the Khmer kings ruled over Cambodia, as well as pieces of Vietnam and China. In 1431, Angkor was demolished by the Thai, after which is was abandoned, and was only rediscovered in 1860. From the 1930s onwards the temples of Angkor have been reconstructed and re-emerged out of the rain forest that had completely overgrown the buildings. The ruins are still partially covered by trees and plants, which is an incredible sight to see.
‘Heaven on earth’
The best-preserved and largest temple of the complex is Angkor Wat, built for King Suryavarman II in the 12th century, and made to replicate heaven on earth. The temple was first dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, and has now been made a religious symbol for Buddhists. It consists of a large temple mountain and a gallery temple, and is surrounded by a moat and a 2.2 mile outer wall.
Beware of the tourists
Even though the surroundings of Angkor are very tranquil and relaxing, the large amounts of tourists can spoil the experience. Before you go, inform yourself about the best time to go. Sunrise is a popular time, so avoid visiting Angkor in the early hours.
Image Courtesy:*christopher* (Wiki Commons),
Image Courtesy: David Wilmot from Wimbledon, United Kingdom (Wiki Commons)
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