Monday, July 31, 2017

Angkor Wat draws visitors to Cambodia

One of the main reasons people travel to Cambodia is to see the famous temple at Angkor Wat, seventh wonder of the world. While Angkor Wat is the largest and most highlighted of the Angkor group, what visitors might not realize is that there are thousands of temples in the Angkor area, making it the largest religious center in the World.
The ancient temple of Angkor Wat brings tourists to Cambodia.
Five towers—a distinctive feature of Angkor Wat--are replicas of lotus flowers, which grow from mud (poor conditions) and open to beautiful flowers (opportunities). It’s an allegory even today for this region of Asia. The temples were not maintained and later fell into disrepair for about 400 years. During that time the jungle took over, almost obliterating these magnificent structures. They were rediscovered by French archaeologists in the 1850s and now give us an unprecedented glimpse into the industrious nature of an ancient civilization that we might not have known about otherwise.

Visitors wait to ascend the stairs to the
top of the tower.
Although most temples open to the east, where the sun rises, Angkor Wat is the only one where the main entrance faces west. Perhaps that’s because it was originally a burial temple (sunset indicated end of life).
Built nearly a thousand years ago without modern tools and technology, Angkor Wat is a manmade wonder. Ancient civilizations accomplished marvelous engineering feats when building these temples. The entire complex is surrounded by a gigantic manmade moat which was dug out to provide dirt to construct a flat hill on which the temple was built. The moat stabilizes the foundation year-round and served an engineering purpose then and now by maintaining the water table. In the rainy season the moat became a reservoir that kept the temple from flooding.

Detailed carvings decorate walls and pillars of the temple.

A spot for prayerful meditation.
The temples were religious icons used for prayers and ceremonies, especially for the rulers of that time. No people lived in the temples. During our visit we walked almost four miles around the complex. Dirt paths, uneven steps, and a lack of handrails required our attention as we wandered the grounds marveling at the intricate carvings and major construction achievements from ancient civilizations.
To visit temples in the Angkor area, most visitors arrive in Siem Reap, a town of about 30,000 people. About 35 percent are employed in the young tourism industry, which is based on these ancient temples. Unfortunately, landmines from recent wars (Vietnam, Khmer Rouge, civil war) still litter the ground around many temples, but local governments lack resources for costly and dangerous removal to fix the problems and open more temples for visitation.

Religious ceremonies are still important in the temples of Cambodia.
As we arrived one afternoon, the sun in the west made gorgeous reflections of the temple’s towers on the moat, a scene we recorded in numerous photos. Many people lounged by the water, taking in the sight of this symbolic structure. A fascinating place, Angkor Wat doesn't disappoint, and it's especially interesting if you like ancient history.
Larry admires the beautiful reflection of Angkor Wat.
Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier
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