The Angkor Wat Temple in Cambodia is a magnificent structure surrounded by breathtaking landscapes. Built in the early 12th century, it has remained a significant religious center since its construction – first as a Hindu temple and then as a Buddhist temple. It is also a source of great civil pride in Cambodia. It survived the Khmer Rouge control in the 70s and 80s, and has been featured on the Cambodian flag since 1863.
The Angkor Wat temple is surrounded by a moat, which some historians feel provides a clue as to its continuous use: the moat holds back the encroaching jungle.
The temple is admired for the grandeur and harmony of its architecture, which is a prime example of Khmer architecture. Some early South Indian influence reflects its Hindu origins. The temple has drawn praise for its grace and beauty, which survive in spite of looting and the passage of time. The outer enclosure is surrounded by open ground and the moat; access to the temple is via a causeway. The temple stands on a raised terrace and is made of three rectangular galleries rising to a central tower. Each level is higher than the last. Unlike other Angkor temples, the Angkor Wat temple is oriented to the west.
The extensive decorations are one of the great features of the Angkor Wat temple. These are predominantly bas-relief friezes depicting episodes from Hindu epics.
In the last 20 years, Angkor Wat has undergone continued conservation and restoration efforts and has seen a massive increase in tourism. This complex is one of the great religious edifices of the world and attracts over half a million visitors to this small country. For afficionados of historical religious monuments, Angkor Wat will continue to be a prime destination.