The Kingdom of Cambodia has a long history with immense beauty that is contrasted by profound tragedy. Nowhere is this beauty embodied more than at the Angkor archaeological site. Built in the city of Siem Reap, construction of the main temple began in the 12th century and was rediscovered in the 1860s.
Since the 1990s Angkor has developed into a major tourist destination. While the early 90s saw as few as 7,300 visitors, this number reached a staggering 2.5 million by 2017. Fortunately, this increase has resulted in little damage to the site, and tourism income has allowed for continual upkeep over the years.
Where to go
Image via Wikipedia
The ancient city of Angkor stretches over 400 square kilometers, with an abundance of temples and structures to explore, so start with Angkor Wat and continue from there.
Defined as the largest religious monument in the world, Angkor Wat is an ancient city that was once the center of the Khmer empire. The temple itself stands on a terrace, sitting high above the city. It’s truly breathtaking to see the structure’s stone-carved ornamentation and intricate detail – documentation of life as it was in the 12th century.
The Bayon Temple is another must-see. Spend time taking in the famous, serene faces, gazing back at you with 800 years of wisdom etched within their smiles. The 54 pairs of eyes that keep watch over the kingdom are truly mesmerizing.
The temple of Ta Prohm should also be included on your list. This relatively untouched temple is still partly hidden within the jungle. Climb your way through the giant roots enveloping the structure, a location made famous by the Angelina Jolie film Tomb Raider.
Image via Wikipedia
If a 5am start is within your reach, Angkor Wat bathed in the rising sun makes for a memorable, awe-inspiring experience. Take the time to sit and reflect upon a civilization that, after many years of political turmoil, allows its beauty to be revered and appreciated by all.
The modern city of Siem Reap is full of surprises, too. Streets and alleyways are lined with cafes, bars and restaurants, and your time spent in this bustling town will not disappoint. Be sure to find your way to Pub Street for a well-earned icy beverage after a day exploring the sites.
Image via Pexels
Flights from Pudong to Siem Reap International Airport start at RMB1,800. Once in Siem Reap, the journey to Angkor Wat is a mere 5.5 kilometers, and easily accessible via taxi or tuktuk. For a more rewarding experience, hire a local guide. If you’re fortunate, they may even share personal stories that offer precious insights into the contrast between the beauty of Angkor and the life of those who survived the regime of the Khmer Rouge.
[Top Image via Wikipedia]