5 Must-See Places
Angkor Wat as a whole is a must-see destination in Cambodia, and arguably in the entire Southeast Asian region. Within it, are several unique spots that are all highly-recommended to visit if you are already there. So, if you are going to Angkor Wat, the 5 spots below are absolute musts in order to get the full experience.
Angkor Wat is both the name of the entire complex, as well as the name of the central and biggest temple of the location. It is the first thing you see as you enter the grounds of this holy world-wonder, and it will surely provide you with the most amazing pictures of your Cambodia trip.
Walk through the long pathway leading from the gates of the complex to the temple’s main gate, and absorb the unbelievable spiritual energy that radiates off this majestic structure.
This pyramid-shaped temple is known as “the smiling faces”, as it is composed of huge stone statues and carvings of gods and deities’ faces typical to the Mahayana-Buddhism influence that was the driving force of its construction. These iconic faces that watch and keep guard of every direction of the temple, have come to be known as “the Mona Lisa of Southeast Asia.”
Unlike the other temples, The Bayon is unique in that it is the only one built primarily as a Mahayana Buddhist dedication to the Buddha.
Deep inside the walls of the complex, is the magnificent Ta Prohm section. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is also the location where Tomb Raider and Indiana Jones were filmed, as it is a truly unique site. The temple seems as if it had been ‘swallowed’ by nature, as it has enormous tree roots growing through and around the stone walls and statues.
This temple, like much of the rest of the complex, was subject to destruction and neglect, leaving many parts of it in ruins. This is what partially allowed the dense jungle vegetation to seep through the stones to create the unique result we see today.
Through a lot of restoration efforts, the temple has been resurrected and allowed to be safely explored by tourists, while still keeping the now integral tree roots that serve as its foundation.
As incredible as the previous stops in Angkor Wat are, this specific temple is a true gem of ancient Khmer art, and a sight that can’t be missed. It features incredibly complex designs carved all across the walls, ceilings, floors, and everything else in between. It is hard to imagine how such a feat could have been achieved, but the closest thing we can do, is to see this mind-boggling temple first-hand and up-close.
The elaborate carvings were made possible as the temple was constructed from red sandstone, a substance that can be carved in the same way as wood can. The precision and symmetry of the designs baffle experts to this day, and it has therefore been claimed by some to be of the highest architecturally out of the five temples of Angkor.
The Ta Som temple is often said to be a miniature version of Ta Prohm, as it too features a similar (but much smaller) temple, completely engulfed inside the gigantic roots of an old banyan (“sacred fig”) tree. It too has been subject to ruin, and has been mostly left unrestored, but stabilized for the safety of tourists.