When traveling in Southeast Asia, also known as Indochina, you’ll quickly realize that Buddhist and Hindu temples — both magnificent and modest — are a common sight. But it’s in the geographically small Buddhist Kingdom of Cambodia that you’ll find the world’s largest religious structure: Angkor Wat, an enduring source of national pride for the Cambodian people. Vantage’s Angkor Wat & the Mekong: A River Cruise in the Heart of Indochina small ship journey features two Angkor Wat tours — giving you ample time to explore the crown jewel of Angkor, the larger UNESCO World Heritage Site of which the temple is part.
Angkor Wat — Then and Now
In the early 12th century, Cambodia’s Khmer King Suryavarman II constructed Angkor Wat as a Hindu temple — a palatial dwelling for the Supreme God Vishnu, in the form of his statue (the king vainly hoped Vishnu would bestow great blessings on himself and his kingdom in return). But when Buddhism spread across Asia several centuries later, Angkor Wat became a Buddhist temple. Now, many more centuries later, it remains a pilgrimage destination for Buddhist monks and other faithful from throughout the world, while Angkor Wat tours continue to draw millions of curious travelers each year. But contrary to popular belief — and the images you may have seen of orange-robed monks praying in or walking around the temple — no one actually lives on the sprawling archeological site.
Enduring Architectural Splendor
Beyond its impressive size — nearly 500 acres — this decidedly uncommon, five-towered temple has long been recognized among the world’s most stunning architectural masterpieces. Upon visiting Angkor Wat back in the 16th century, a Portuguese monk famously described it as “of such extraordinary construction that it is not possible to describe it with a pen, particularly since it is like no other building in the world. It has towers and decoration and all the refinements which the human genius can conceive of.” Such lofty praise is well-deserved, as your included Angkor Wat tours will reveal…
As you approach the complex from a distance, Angkor Wat may look more like a gigantic castle of wet brownish sand than a grand monument of godly devotion. But once you’ve crossed the 650-foot-wide moat that surrounds it, the distinctive beauty of its pillared sandstone façade comes gloriously into focus. And once you enter the serenity of its walls during your Angkor Wat tours, the intricately carved bas-beliefs that line its vast interior help achieve King Suryavarman II’s original intention: to create an earthly home fit for a celestial god.
To experience and explore this great temple for yourself, join Vantage on Angkor Wat & the Mekong: A River Cruise in the Heart of Indochina — a journey through Cambodia and Vietnam that includes two Angkor Wat tours and a 7-day Mekong River cruise.