Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Why Angkor Wat in Cambodia is such a magical place


What defines a magical place? For me, this is an easy answer: It’s a place with which I associate positive thoughts, calmness & strength. I’m not an esoteric person but when it comes to Angkor Wat, it almost feels like there’s some sort on energy in the air.


What most people don’t know is that Angkor Wat (which literally means “City of Temple”) was actually the name of the main temple, not the entire complex. It was built in the time of King Suryavarman II in the 12th century and is the best-preserved & most visited temple at the site. The complete temple area was known only as Angkor (which is situated on the plain of present-day Siem Reap province north of the Great Lake of Tonle Sap) and it served as the seat of the Khmer Empire until the 15th century. Each king built at least one giant temple during his ruling, which led to a total size of 200km2.
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Second thing a lot of people don’t know: The discovery of Angkor by the french explorer Henri Mouhot is a bit of a myth. It is said that he re-discovered Angkor Wat in 1860 and that he was the first European to visit the area; both of which is not true. Angkor was never really “lost”. The Khmer knew of the existence even after the kingdom broke down. Some of the temples have been used all the time by fishermen and farmers who lived in the surroundings. In the 16th century, Portuguese missionaries reached the city and even reported about it. The interests of the colonial powers seemed to have swept this under the table…

Angkor Wat temple built for King Suryavaman II

The temple area of Angkor is the most famous tourist site in Cambodia. It has become a symbol of this country, also appearing on its national flag. More than two million visitors come here every year. For the country itself this is a good thing, because there’s not that many other tourist attractions but for the complex, it’s not that convenient. Why? Well, let me try to get this straight: The average person doesn’t really look out for anyone but themselves … and that’s the truth. I could give you a million examples but for Angkor Wat in particular, I’ll give you these two:

1.) During our visit in 2010, we saw how some tourists leaned on a clearly not stable part of a less known temple … Do I don’t have to tell you how the story ended? No. Did they report it? I wouldn’t count on it. Did we report it? Yes, but the guys that we told didn’t seem to care that much.

2.) Four million feet each year (including a couple of thousand from elephants as seen in the photo below) can’t be good for these grounds. But that’s just my opinion.

Obviously I was not the only one who thought this because nowadays, you’re not able to get to all the temples as easy anymore. Some parts are even cut off completely (for example the door of Ta Prohm temple also seen below). Maybe the perfect photograph is ruined this way, but after all we want to enjoy this magical place for much longer!

This is the absolute last thing we would ever do...
Of course it’s also possible to enjoy Angkor Wat without all the tourists. Just leave the normal path and you’re in the middle of a (almost spooky) jungle. The arsenal is so huge, you could walk for hours and maybe even get lost at some point…

One of the face at Bayon temple.


Not only the destruction of the temples is visible but also how the jungle is taking over the temple complex. It’s no wonder that Angkor Wat succumbed to the encroaching jungle…

The world famous Ta Prohm Temple in 2007.
Ta Prohm Temple
Above all, if temples aren’t your thing, don’t force yourself to see every last one of them. Travel is about making yourself happy.  Do what makes you happiest. 

Or you can refer the bike itinerary of one travel company: ActiveTravel Asia - one of the Indochina's leading adventure travel companies, offering Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia adventure tours, including hiking and trekking, biking, motorcycling and family travel packages. Read more their Biking Angkor Wat itinerary at:


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