Angkor Wat is a massive temple in Cambodia, built in the 12th century.
The central tower reaches 213 meters high, literally towering over the so-called “Great Pyramid” at only 146 meters. Correction: The central tower reaches 213 feet high (not 213 meters), which would stand in the shadow of the Great Pyramid at 479 feet (146 meters). The ancient city wall of Angkor encompass 203 acres of land, making it one of the largest relics of its kind. Yet, despite what the Cambodia Tourism website says, Angkor Wat is not a “Wonder of the World”. At least not officially.
“The Seven Wonders Of The World” is actually a list of architectural achievements that was compiled by Herodotus around 450 BCE. Of his list, the only item still around is that dusty old pyramid in Giza. The magnificence of Angkor Wat couldn’t be appreciated, as it wouldn’t be built for another 1500 years. Tough luck.
Now, sure, the great temple has made it on to many Wonder-Lists, or called the “Eighth Wonder Of The World” (a title it has to share occasionally with a really good pizza or hamburger) but it’s never really made it on to THE list. Even recently when a group decided to make the “New 7 Wonders” list it didn’t make the cut. Mind you, I don’t give much credence to that list, as it was judged by public vote. The fact that some big statue of a religious guy made it to #3 proves that it was just a popularity contest.
So let’s just agree to appreciate Angkor Wat on its own merit.
Angkor was an ancient city, the capital city at the time, and the temple was built by King Suryavarman II and dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu. The structure and layout of the temple is an artistic work, said to symbolize the entire universe (as understood at the time, and still an element of Buddhist lore). The central towers representing the five peaks mountain Meru at the center of the cosmos. The outer wall is a mountain range at the edge of the world, and the large moat encompassing the site is the infinite oceans beyond.
Pretty much every exposed inch of the 5 million tons of sandstone was artistically carved. Different galleries were themed to depict great battles or religious epics. The craftsmanship was said to exceed anything offered in the ancient Greek or Roman architecture. Amazingly, the entire project was completed within a 30 or 40 year timespan by thousands of skilled workers. I suppose they had the benefit of not having to get approval from a zoning committee, or submit to land-use surveys.
Sadly, Angkor Wat only existed as a living city for a brief time. It was less than one century before the people who built it were taken over by a old enemy, who promptly established a new capital city to the north, and constructed a new palace at Angkor Thom, “The Great City”. The temple site was soon abandoned as a city, left to the care of Buddhist monks.
Today the site is the pre-eminent tourist draw for Cambodia, dropping the jaws of about 600,000 visitors annually. One of those recent visitors, a friend of mine, was so inspired by the structure that he was compelled to muster up all of his Parkour ability to make this amazing video…
(Watch the video Angkor Wat Parkour on Youtube)