The town of Siem Reap, in northern Cambodia, is the primary access point for the Angkor Archaeological Park. The name Siem Reap literally means “Siam Defeated”. These days, however, the only rampaging hordes are the tourists heading to the Angkor Archaeological Park. This once quaint village has become the largest boom town and construction site in Cambodia. It is quite laid-back and a pleasant place to stay while touring the temples. Since Siem Reap is a major tourist destination, prices in some instances are higher than elsewhere in Cambodia. Expect to receive almost constant offers for motodop and tuk-tuk rides, along with everything else which drivers may be able to offer to you.
Angkor Wat Archaeological Park, located in northern Cambodia, is one of the most important archaeological sites in Southeast Asia. Stretching over some 400 square kilometers, including forested area, Angkor Archaeological Park contains the magnificent remains of several capitals of the Khmer Empire of the 9th to the 15th centuries, including the largest per-industrial city in the world. The most famous are the Temple of Angkor Wat and, at Angkor Thom, the Bayon Temple with its countless sculptural decorations.
Angkor Archaeological Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1992. At the same time, it was also placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger due to looting, a declining water table and unsustainable tourism. Angkor itself has no accommodations and few facilities; the nearby town of Siem Reap is the tourist hub for the area.
The temples of Angkor Wat Pictures are highly symbolic structures. The foremost Hindu concept is the temple-mountain, where the temple is built as a representation of the mythical Mount Meru: this is why so many temples, including Angkor Wat itself, are surrounded by moats, built in a mountain-like pyramidal shape and topped by precisely five towers, representing the five peaks of Mount Meru. There was also a political element to it all: most kings wanted to build their own state temples to symbolize their kingdom and their rule. Located six kilometers north of Siem Reap, Angkor Wat is one of the largest of Khmer monuments. Built around the first half of 12th century by King Suryavarman II, the temple’s balance, composition and beauty make it one of the finest monuments in the world. The sight of the grand monument towering over the landscape is breath-taking at any time of day. However, to maximize the effect it is suggested that the first trip to Angkor Wat be made in optimal lighting conditions, usually around one- two PM. Sunrise at Angkor Wat is a also great sight to witness.
Be sure to pick up your free Siem Reap Angkor Visitors Guide and the equally free and useful Siem Reap Pocket Guide from your hotel/guesthouse. It contains lots of info on Siem Reap and the Angkor Archaeological Park, including hotel/bar/restaurant/shop info, travel info, and maps. For the eco-sensitive tourist, check out “Stay another Day: Cambodia,” a detailed guide with local spots that support the environment and community.
Angkor is hot and sticky throughout the year, but the peak season is November to February, when the weather is dry and temperatures are coolest (25-30°C). The flip side is that the temples are packed, especially around Christmas/New Year’s, and hotel rates are at their highest. March to May is brutally hot, with temperatures reaching 40°C. June to October is the rainy season, and outlying temples and the roads leading to them can turn into quagmires of mud. However, this is also when the temples are at their quietest, and it’s still often possible to do a good half-day round of sightseeing before the rains start in the afternoon.