Ankor Wat

Is it the Crown Jewel of Southeast Asia?

As you know, Ankor Wat is a massive ruined temple complex near the town of Siem Reap in Cambodia.

Along with the other temples in Angkor Archeological Park, it is well-known internationally and is by far Cambodia’s biggest tourist drawcard.

There are many tourist sites withiin Southeast Asia that bear some similarity to Angkor Watt. Countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, and Burma have temples and ruins in abundance. But do any of them really compare to Angkor Wat?

Ankor Wat vs. Other Ruins in Southeast Asia

Some of the most famous tourist attractions in the world are ruins. The Great Wall of China, the Parthenon in Greece, and Machu Picchu in Peru are just a few examples. There are many ruins in Southeast Asia too. But how do they stack up against the mighty Angkor Wat?

Prambanan is a temple compound in Indonesia, not far from Yogyakarta. Like Angkor Wat, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and also like Angkor Wat, it was a Hindu temple before it fell into disuse. It has a wealth of sculptural detail within its walls. It also features a 47m high central building, which is pretty high – but not in league with Angkor Wat, which has a tower above its central shrine topping out at 65m.

Prambanan Temple in Java, Indonesia.
Prambanan Temple in Central Java, Indonesia.

Below: Top of Borobudur temple in
also in Central Java, Indonesia.

Borobudur templeBorobudur is a 9th century Buddhist monument in Central Java, Indonesia. It's made of stone and it consists of six square platforms topped with three circular ones.

It’s decorated with an incredible 2,672 relief panels and 504 statues of Buddha. Borobudur is an icon in Indonesia, and rightly so…but Angkor Wat is such a source of national pride for Cambodians that it has been featured on their national flag since 1863!

Angkor Wat vs. Other Temples in Southeast Asia

Angkor Wat may be partially in ruins, but it’s still a temple (or more accurately, a temple complex). How does it compare with Southeast Asia’s other temples, both ancient and modern?

Wat Rong Khun
Wat Rong Khun Temple in  
Chiang Rai, Thailand.

Wat Rong Khun is a temple in the northern city of Chiang Rai, in Thailand. Unlike Ankor Wat, Wat Rong Khun is modern; construction began in 1998 and continues today.

Its exterior is very striking: it’s a fantastic edifice of pure white stone and white glass.

So how does Wat Rong Khun compare with Ankor Wat? Well, impressive as it is, Wat Rong Khun was built with modern construction techniques and materials. It can’t compare with a structure just as impressive but built over 500 years ago with nothing more than rope, sweat, bamboo, sandstone and elephants.

Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda, a.k.a. the Golden Pagoda, is a Buddhist temple located in Burma. The stupa (dome and spire) of Shwedagon Pagoda is surfaced in plates of genuine gold.

Shwedagon Pagoda attracts many visitors, in the region of 100,000 per year, but Ankor Wat beats that easily, attracting more than 500,000 tourists a year.

The Kek Lok Si temple is another Buddhist temple, this time in Penang (a state of Malaysia). It features a beautiful seven-story pagoda and a huge bronze statue (of the Goddess of Mercy, Kuan Yin). Kek Lok Si is the largest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia. But Ankor Wat is the largest religious structure in the entire world!

So in short...

In short, Southeast Asia has a wealth of attractions, and its temples and ruins alone make it an amazing travel destination. However, while sites like Shwedagon Pagoda, Kek Lok Si and Prambanan are impressive, only Ankor Wat is truly not to be missed. If it was located closer to North America or Europe, there’s little doubt that it would rival Egypt’s Pyramids of Giza or the Coliseum in Rome for popularity.

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