The most popular time of day to visit Angkor Wat, especially for photographers, is at sunrise (around 5:30 AM), but don't be surprised if you are not alone, there are often several hundred people trying to stand in the same spot for that special sunrise picture. The next couple of hours after the sunrise also tend to be pretty busy with group tourists, but Angkor Wat is such a big place that you can usually find a quiet corner for yourself. The afternoons tend to have a lot fewer people though so can be a better experience.
Constructed when: early to mid 12th century
Constructed by: King Suryavarman II
Architectural style: Angkor Wat
Location: 15 kilometers north of Siem Reap town, the first temple site after the Park entrance gate.
Angkor Wat temple arial view, from a tethered balloon observation platform, just a short distance down the road from the temple compound. This view is looking east, with the main west gate of the temple compound in the foreground. The 1300 by 1500 meter temple compound is surrounded by an exterior wall and moat.
Angkor Wat was built between 1113 and 1150 by King Suryavarman II.
Suryavarman II ascended to the throne by defeating a rival prince in battle. Inscriptions at Angkor Wat) say that, during the battle Suryavarman II lept on the rival price's war elephant and killed him,while at the same moment the Garuda slew a serpent. Suryavaram II then solidified his position by defeating all his regional rival and keeping a tight rule on his subjects. Once he had stabilized his Kingdom, he started constructing his personal temple and mausoleum, which we now know as Angkor Wat.
Breaking with the tradition of the Khmer kings, and influenced perhaps by the concurrent rise of Vaisnavism in India, he dedicated the temple to Vishnu rather than to Siva. With walls nearly one-half mile long on each side, Angkor Wat grandly portrays the Hindu cosmology, with the central towers representing Mount Meru, home of the gods; the outer walls, the mountains enclosing the world; and the moat, the oceans beyond. The traditional theme of identifying the Cambodian devaraja with the gods, and his residence with that of the celestials, is very much in evidence. The measurements themselves of the temple and its parts in relation to one another have cosmological significance. Suryavarman had the walls of the temple decorated with bas reliefs depicting not only scenes from mythology, but also from the life of his own imperial court. In one of the scenes, the king himself is portrayed as larger in size than his subjects, sitting cross-legged on an elevated throne and holding court, while a bevy of attendants make him comfortable with the aid of parasols and fans.
Floorplan of the main Angkor Wat temple structure.
Historical information and some descriptions of temple sites are sourced from the Angkor series of Wikipedia articles. This text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. The main Wikipedia page on Angkor can be found at - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angkor