Angkor Wat and its surrounding ruins are probably the most spectacular man-made structures in the world. At its maximum extension at the end of the 12th century, the Khmer Empire included, in addition to the present kingdom of Cambodia, parts of the Malay Peninsula, Burma, Thailand (formerly Siam – pronounced See-am) and Vietnam, but for practical and metaphysical purposes the capital has always been in the vicinity of Angkor.
There are important Khmer ruins scattered through the forests over a hundred mile radius. The principal monuments are the colossal mausoleum of Angkor Wat (wat essentially means ‘monastery’), the shell of the city of Angkor Thom with its fantastic centerpiece the Bayon, and a number of scattered temples and foundations, some pyramidical, but all built on a strictly rectangular plan and carefully oriented with doors facing the cardinal points. Between these are clear, open spaces since permanence was only desired for religious edifices and only those that could be built of brick and stone. (Pagan in Myanmar, formerly Burma, is much the same: religious temples built with clear, open spaces between them.) All these buildings were erected between the 9th and 12th centuries.
The temples startle with their splendour and perfection but beyond the emotions they evoke lie complex microcosms of the universe steeped in cosmology.
"Go to Angkor, my friend, to its ruins and to its dreams"