Years ago, I used to hang out in my Auntie’s house not just to be with my cool cousins but also because of a book.
It was a huge book like a World Encyclopedia, that has all the details about the countries in the world. I remember I was so fascinated with that book, there was a time I memorized by heart the capitals of almost all the countries.
When I became older and went to college and got drunk for the first time, my friends told me I was reciting the capital cities of the world. LOL! That was crazy!
Looking back, I knew it was also a sign that I was indeed destined for a life of adventure. It was also the time when I laid my eyes on that photo of the majestic Angkor Wat in Cambodia. I was mesmerized, voraciously read the details about the World’s largest religious monument.
I was just a kid imagining…and asking how on earth that huge temple was built? How was the life of the people back then?
I kept thinking until I realized that the thinking has turned into dreaming…dreaming of one day visiting this magnificent place.
Story of Angkor Wat
It was 1860 when a French naturalist and explorer Henri Moulot lost his way into the deep jungle of Cambodia. He was expecting just to encounter some flora and fauna, but what he then found out literally changed the world’s view on history, culture and heritage when he discovered this huge and jaw-dropping temple known today as the Angkor Wat.
There were reports refuting the idea that Moulot discovered Angkor Wat but it is undeniable that it was him who popularized the cultural heritage in the West through his writings.
Angkor Wat means City Temple, built by the Khmer Empire which dominated most of South East Asia between the year of 800 and 1432 AD. During the 15th Century, the empire collapsed, and the temples were abandoned. This masterpiece was hidden to the world for 400 years until Moulot’s reports were published.
Since then, people raved about Angkor Wat’s beauty, triggering immense curiosity. We all have the same question, then and now, how was this built? Angkor Wat has captured my imagination from the very beginning, kept telling myself that one day I will travel there to witness its splendor.
Have you ever experienced that?
When there’s something you dream about for so long, then you realize it’s already in front of you? That was the exact feeling I had, the awe when I had my first glimpse on Angkor Wat.
At first, you would think that what you’re seeing is the temple itself, but wait until you come near it, pass through it. That’s the time, you’d realize that it is just an elaborate gate or outer wall, which then opens up to this grand main temple which is about 400 yards away. Truly amazing!
Inside the temple are steep staircases, connecting different terraces. This is also filled with exquisite carvings which depict Hindu beliefs. Ever wondered how Hinduism arrived in a place like Cambodia?
The monsoon winds of India to Mekong Delta had led some Indian traders and fishermen in Cambodia bringing with them their religion.
Angkor Wat is just a part of a huge complex now known as Angkor Archeological Park with various temples. Exploring the rest of the temples is a must!
These structures were part of an ancient civilization, part of an elaborate plan of a vast, sophisticated water network that aimed to sustain the lives of almost 750,000 people. But after many years of domination, Khmer empire’s strength which is the water system has in time become its weakness. Due to changes in nature and soil erosion, water level dropped affecting the rice fields, resulting to famine and drought.
The circumstance led to the invasion of other tribes and group which resulted to the collapse of the Khmer empire.
I just sat there, waiting for the famed Angkor sunset when I saw a group of monks going out of the temple.
When the temples were abandoned, it was the Buddhist monks who preserved and made Angkor Wat their Sacred Home. If not for them, Angkor Wat might have experienced the fate of other temples in the complex -ruined and forsaken.
Honestly, Angkor Wat has made me a kind of traveler who enjoys culture and heritage. As I bid goodbye to the last rays of the sun that day, there’s one thing I realized in this travel to the beautiful country of Cambodia.
It’s true, “Dreams really do come true.”
From a boy dreaming of Angkor Wat by flipping through the pages of a book, to a young man too engrossed about everything about the temple. And I knew that every thought and dream I’ve envisioned through the years have drawn me closer to this place.
I felt that the universe has indeed found a way for me to realize this dream.
Dreams do come true. If you just believe it, nobody can stop you from achieving it.
Tips For Exploring Angkor Wat
1. Allot enough time to explore Angkor Wat and the other temples.
I suggest that you explore the entire complex minimum of two days. You won’t be able to do it in a day. Or if you insist, expect to experience what a lot of travelers call the “temple burnout.”
You’re going to see a LOT of temples, so divide your itinerary into at least two days, giving you time to breathe and enjoy the magnificence and history behind each temple.
As a traveler, you need to pay the temple pass before entering the huge complex. Below is the price.
1 Day – 20 USD
3 days – 40 USD (recommended!)
7 Days – 60 USD
2. Hire a Driver
Every guesthouse or hostel in Siem Reap is offering an Angkor Tour by van or by tuk tuk, it is recommended that you avail this. Remember you’re about to walk for hours exploring temples so at least make your way of transport comfortable. The rates is very affordable, averaging 10 USD per day!
3. Dress Appropriately
There is no rule or guideline that says you are not allowed to enter if you wear shorts or revealing outfit, but please remember that you’re exploring a temple! I think that reason is enough.
Locals would love you even more if you dress modestly.
4. Bring lots of water!
Temperature in Cambodia is humid and can rise up to more than 40 degrees celsius. So you know what to do.
5. Explore the rest of the temples.
Aside from Angkor Wat, you shouldn’t miss Bayon, Temple, Ta Phrom, Preah Khan,Banteay Srei etc.
Where to Stay in Siem Reap
We stayed at Bou Savy Guesthouse. It was an amazing experience. No wonder they’ve been winning TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence for 5 consecutive years.
Bou Savy – Check Room Rates and Book here!
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