Today we start our A to Z of Southeast Asia where we highlight some of the iconic sites, sights and destinations throughout the region.
We spent many days deciding where we should start until finally we started with the letter A. It seemed fitting.
The series will continue over the coming days.
We make no secret of our love for Angkor Wat.
The Angkor Archaeological Park covers more than 400 square km and features 72 major and many further minor temple sites that most people group together as Angkor Wat.
Angkor Wat Temple
The most well known of all the temples in Angkor Archaeological Park and Cambodia.
Set among forests and complimented by the numerous neighbouring temples, Angkor Wat is a marvel of architecture.
Built in the early 12th century by the Khmer King Suryavarman II taking only around 30-40 years. Originally dedicated to the Hindu God Vishnu and, unusually, orientated to the west, possibly meaning it was built as a funerial temple.
Like many temples Angkor Wat is surrounded by a wide 200 metre moat. Although there was a security aspect to the moat its main function was to help stabilise the temple foundations. Read more about this in our Angkor Wat Temple section.
The City of Angkor Thom is one of the most visited and photographed temples in the park. The most famous is Bayon, which lies in the heart of the city, and includes spectacular stone faces.
Angkor Thom was built by King Jayavarman VII, main building work probably ended around 1295 but significant modifications continued for centuries. It is believed that the city, at its height, was home to up to 150,000 inhabitants. It’s not know when Angkor Thom was abandoned, but it is likely to have been towards the end of the 16th century.
Situated in the heart of Angkor Thom, Bayon was dedicated to Buddha.
Originally known as Jayagiri, it was renamed Banyan Temple due to religious thinking believing that the Buddha attained enlightenment while meditating under a Banyan tree and the proximity of many banyan trees.
It is believed that during restoration work, Khmer workers mispronounced the name as Bayon and so we have the modern name.
The temple is most known for the 216 stone faces throughout the temple which may all be depictions of King Jayavarman VIII. Alternatively they may depict Lokesvara who is believed to embody the compassion of all Buddhas.
Unlike many temples in the area Ta Prohm has received little restoration meaning that its unique landscape of trees growing underneath and through temples survives and gives the temples nickname of “the jungle temple”.
Ta Prohm was thrust into worldwide fame when Lara Croft: Tomb Raider hit cinemas in 2001.
Ta Prohm was built by King Jayavarman VII in the late 12th and early 13th centuries as a Mahayana Buddhist monastery and university. The site continued to be developed and expanded up until the end of the 15th century and the rule of Srindravarman.
At its peak the site was home to around 12,500 people with a further 80,000 people in surrounding villages. The temple is believed to have amassed extensive gold, pearls and silk.
The temple was abandoned after the fall of the Khmer empire in the 15th century.
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