If you love history and are looking to visit Asia, Gene Bernshtam recommends you head to Southeast Asia, or more specifically, Cambodia. For a lot of first-time visitors, Cambodia’s Angkor Archeological Park is their primary reason for traveling to the country. Eugene Bernshtam gives you a bird’s eye view below:
The Angkor Temples
For 600 years, the Khmer Empire flourished and with it came strong religious influences across Southeast Asia. During its reign, large, imposing temples were built including what has become Cambodia’s most popular tourist attraction, the Angkor Wat.
When the Khmer Empire fell, its neighbors looted the temples, most notably by the Ayutthaya Kingdom. It was subsequently abandoned.
In 1992, the Angkor Archeological Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The site of the temples is symbolic of the Hindu religion, most notably the temple mountain which is said to represent Mount Meru (a sacred mountain in Hinduism and Buddhism). The temple mountain has five towers representing the five peaks of Mount Meru.
The walls of the temples are engraved with religious symbolisms, from celestial nymphs to Kala who is said to guard the temples from evil, and Naga, a mythical serpent with many heads. The history of the Khmer Empire is also etched on the walls like the battles during the time of Jayavarman VII.
Apart from Angkor Wat, other popular temples here include Angkor Thom and the Bayon Temple. There are about 216 stone faces on the towers of Bayon.
You will need to secure a pass at the ticket counter about seven kilometers off the archeological park’s front gate. If you need a guide, you can hire the services of one for about $20. Locals are not required to purchase a ticket so you won’t need to get one for them when you purchase yours.
The nearest accommodations you can find will be at Siem Reap.
Also, wear clothes that cover your knees and shoulders as a sign of respect, and you will have to remove your socks and shoes when entering some of the temples.
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