Angkor Wat – size
Many people have heard of Angkor Wat, but don’t really know that Angkor Wat is just one of the many temples located in the immensely huge complex of Angkor. That Angkor Wat is the most well known of them all, has to do with its history, but also because of its enormous size. It is the world’s largest religious monument. The total area measures almost 200 hectares. With the shape of a rectangle that measures 1.5 km east to west and 1.3 km north to south.
The compound is surrounded by a waterway. Once you got over the water, there are three different surrounding walls, which we can call here the outer wall, the middle wall and the inner wall, to make it understandable. Some of the walls are 190 m wide and the outer walls are 1025 m by 802 m. The outer enclosure is 82 hectares and the temple itself stands in the middle on a terrace that has a size of 332 m by 258 m in a total of 9 hectares. These are just some of the many more numbers related to Angkor Wat. Numbers in size, but there are also numbers is stairs, in images and scriptures to be seen on walls, etc.
Angkor Wat – Symbolism
The size of it all gave the Khmer room for expressing a lot of religious symbolism. Many people have the wrong assumption that Angkor is Buddhist of origin, but in fact, it’s a microcosm of the Hindu universe. The waterway represents the mythical oceans surrounding the earth. The galleries represent the mountain ranges that surround Mount Meru, the home of the Gods. The towers represents the mountain peaks. That the temple is facing west rather than the more usual east, can be explained that the temple was dedicated to Vishnu, who is often associated with west.
There is simply too much to write here about Angkor Wat. The history behind it. The architectural information. Archaeology. The Khmer. The details. The wars and destruction. The kings and much more. Angkor Wat was built between 1113 and 1150 under the reign of Suryvarman II. There were plenty of later additions to the temple and its area. For detailed information there is a lot to be found on internet and in books. An impression video made by us can be seen here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v3tY93qImaY&feature=youtu.be
The numbers of visitors are ever increasing. It can depend on the season of course, but also on when there are holidays in other countries. Holidays like the Vietnamese or Chinese new year for example. As someone who has been three times at Angkor Wat over the past 17 years and therefore seen the changes. It can be a different experience than you expect, or a very crowded place with lines to wait and never a chance for a pic without other tourists appearing in it. In 2001 it was quiet and mostly westerners and Israelis visiting. As per 2018, the number of westerners is max 20% of the total visitors. Buses full of mostly Chinese tourists are guided around in big groups. This with an official Cambodian guide who shouts in Mandarin language through a loudspeaker to his Chinese customers. For other people not something to walk in between and wander around for hours anymore. Keep that in mind.
Plenty of guys are walking around, selling books about Angkor. Not only about Angkor Wat, but including most of the other temples too. At first they might charge you up to $30 for a 230 page book. Experience shows that you can bargain on it as much as he accepts, all the way down to $10 – $13. This is a reasonable price for the size, content and quality of the book. A book gives you a lot of information about all the temples, that you can read back later on. A guide explains you a lot, of which a lot will be unclear, misunderstood and/or forgotten. The price for a guide is usually $15, depending on the half day or full day tour. So the book is cheaper and the information last longer.
Guides can be booked with your tour, but in case you go on yourself, there are plenty of guys walking around who love to earn some money and offer to be your guide. Pay attention that official guides, who studied about Angkor and got a certificate, are walking in official clothes and are therefore easy recognizable. A yellowish/creme color blouse with on the sleeves some official logo.
What to wear?
Respect the rules. Wear shorts or skirt till your knees or longer and shirts not too much open. From my own experience, I had a sleeveless shirt that did cover the shoulder, which was according to the guy not allowed and asked to change it for a a shirt with sleeves. Just in case someone approaches you and tells you to do something, ask for his ID to see if he’s an official who has the right to order you something. In my case, this guy (who then said to be a guide) ordered something while the officials checking the tickets didn’t mention anything about the shirt I was wearing. In fact, I saw more open shirts inside the compound than mine. Ask your hotel or driver before leaving about what you wear, and just in case, bring something extra to cover if needed.
How to get there?
How to get there depend on yourself. You can take a group or private tour that brings you around with a bus, van or tuktuk, depending on the size of the group. A tuktuk on yourself charges $18 a day. The driver brings you from temple to temple and waits till you get back out. It doesn’t matter to him if he needs to wait 4 hrs at one temple or just 10 minutes. Be careful though, that you’ll find him back. He waits, but another 40 tuktuks wait too, specifically at Angkor Wat. So it can be hard to find yours.
Take a pic of driver and tuktuk before getting into a temple. Just in case, because another issue is that many tuktuks drop you at a west gate, tell you to get in there and walk around and that he will wait for you at the east gate. This can be confusing, as some temples are huge, even with a square shape, they have many doorways, towers and gates, which gets you easily out at the wrong gate. If you’re not into spending $18 dollar for a tuktuk, then you can rent a bicycle for max $2 per day. A mountainbike cost a few dollars more and a motorbike cost you around the same as a tuktuk.
How far and how much?
The distance from the center of Siem Reap to Angkor Wat is too far to walk, but good to do on a bicycle. Roughly 25 minutes cycling. A tuktuk roughly 15 minutes. Take note that you don’t pay entrance prices at each temple. Something that should definitely be considered by the authorities, as the entrance price for the whole of Angkor is shockingly high. Per 2018 the price increased from $20 a one day ticket to $37 a one day ticket. Some people wander around for four hrs just in Angkor Wat. Others do eight temples on one day. Anyhow, the price gets higher and higher. A three day pass cost you cheaper per day of course, but more in total.
You get yourself a ticket at a building with over 45 counters. Yes, that says something about how many visitors there might be. The ticket building is still at least 5 minutes driving by tuktuk to the temple. You pay and look in the camera, because your photo comes printed on your ticket. Can you try to be smart and not buy the ticket? You can always try of course, but along other roads leading into the Angkor compound are ticket checkers, who don’t sell the tickets and send you back to the ticket building. Beside this, at each temple are employees too to check on tickets. They all wear official purple shirts. So even if you decide to get through some forest to avoid the road check, you can only see temples from the outside but won’t be able to get in without ticket.
Despite the ticket price, Angkor Wat is a must see place as it is one of the 7 world wonders, on the World Heritage List and impressive in any other way.