Siem Reap province is located in northwest Cambodia. It is the major tourist hub in Cambodia, as it is the closest city to the world famous temples of Angkor (the Angkor temple complex is north of the city). The provincial capital is also called Siem Reap and is located in the South of the province on the shores of the Tonle Sap Lake, the greatest sweet water reserve in whole Southeast Asia. The name of the city literally means Siamese defeated, referring to the victory of the Khmer Empire over the army of the Thai kingdom in the 17th century.
At the turn of the millennium Siem Reap was a Cambodian provincial town with few facilities, minor surfaced roads and little in the way of nightlife. Tourism industry catered largely to hardy backpackers willing to brave the tortuous road from the Thai border on the tailgate of a local pick-up truck. There were a couple of large hotels and a handful of budget guesthouses. Tuk-tuks and taxis were non-existent and the trusty motodup was the chosen means of touring the temples of Angkor.
The proximity of the Angkorian ruins turned Siem Reap into a boomtown in less than half a decade. Huge, expensive hotels have sprung up everywhere and budget hotels have mushroomed. Property values have soared to European levels and tourism has become a vast, lucrative industry. The Siem Reap of today is barely recognizable from the Siem Reap of the year 2000.
Though some of the town's previous ramshackle charm may have been lost the developments of the last few years have brought livelihoods, if not significant wealth, to a good number of its citizens. This has been at a cost to the underprivileged people living within and beyond the town's limits that now pay inflated prices at the central markets and continue to survive on poorly paid subsistence farming and fishing. If Cambodia is a country of contrasts Siem Reap is the embodiment of those contrasts. Despite the massive shift in its economic fortunes, Siem Reap remains a safe, friendly and pleasant town. There is an endless choice of places to stay or dine and a host of possible activities awaiting the visitor.
The majority of visitors to Siem Reap arrive by air from Phnom Penh and Bangkok. There are also regular flights from Singapore, Ho Chi Minh City and Vientiane. See the airline list below. Visas are available on arrival at the Siem Reap and Phnom Penh airports. From Phnom Penh, there are also daily boats and buses going to Siem Reap. Some visitors make their way to Siem Reap overland from Thailand via the Aranyaprathet/Poipet border crossing.
Siem Reap: Arrival and Departure
Airport Departure and Arrival Tax: Domestic: US$6. International: US$25 Siem Reap Airport: The airport sits 6km from town, close to the temples, occasionally affording spectacular views of Angkor Wat during landings and take offs. Outside the terminal is a ticket booth for registered taxis into town. Independent taxis and motorcycles wait just outside the airport. The price is the same for both: motorcycles are $2 and cars are $6-7 into town. Most hotels offer free transportation from the airport but you must notify them in advance of your arrival.
Siem Reap Ferry Dock:
The ferry to Siem Reap arrives at Chong Khneas near Phnom Krom, 12km south of Siem Reap. There is always transportation waiting at the dock. Mototaxis charge about $2-$3 and cars $6-$7 for the 20-30 minute ride into town.
Siem Reap Airways offer several daily flights to/from Phnom Penh. http://www.siemreapairways.com/; another cheap opportunity is http://www.airasia.com/; or www.laoairlines.com/.
Daily ferries ply the Tonle Sap river and lake between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. The end of the trip is marked by a hill, Phnom Krom, near the ferry dock at Chong Khneas 12 km south of Siem Reap. During the dry season, the ferry stops short of the dock and passengers transfer to smaller boats to traverse the final few hundred meters.
Ferries depart 7am daily from the Phnom Penh Port on Sisowath Quay. Ferries depart Siem Reap daily at 7am from the dock at Chong Khneas. Passage is around $18-$25 and should be purchased a day in advance (251km, 4-6 hours). Drinks are sometimes available. Tickets can be purchased through hotels and travel agencies cheaper than at the ferry offices. Though generally safe, these ferries are local transport and have experienced breakdowns, groundings and other difficulties. Travel is best during the wet season (June-November). Dry season low waters can mean smaller, less comfortable boats and occasional groundings.
Compagnie Fluevial Du Mekong offers very leisurely paced boat trips between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap on a traditionally crafted wooden riverboat with deluxe facilities. 3-day excursions. Tel: 023-216070; http://www.cfmekong.com.
Several guesthouses, travel agencies and bus companies offer daily bus transport between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. It is a smooth 314 km, 5-7 hour trip. The bus makes usually two stops along the way (at Skun and Kampong Thom). All charge the same, $3.50 (14,000R) one-way. The earliest buses depart starting at 6:30am and the last buses between noon and 1pm.
Neak Krorhorm Travel: Phnom Penh office at the corner of Street 110 and Sisowath Quay. Siem Reap office opposite the Old Market.GST: Phnom Penh bus station near the southwest corner of Phsar Thmey (Central Market). Phnom Penh Public Transport Co.: Phnom Penh bus station near the southwest corner of Phsar Thmey (Central Market).
Local share taxi depart from southwest corner of Central Market in Phnom Penh for 25,000 riel per person (5-8 hours). A private taxi costs you US$38-$45 for the whole car. 5-6 hours. (Due to rising fuel costs, prices are in flux.) .
Motorbike Info to Siem Reap:
The road to Siem Reap is in good condition, but driving in Cambodia is still challenging in the extreme, and should be attempted only by experienced riders. Speeding taxis, slow cows, and oblivious children are the norm. The trip calls for a dirt or road bike, no smaller than 250cc. It can be made in a day, but two days with a layover in Kampong Thom is a more relaxed alternative and allows time to visit the pre-Angkorian ruins of Sambor Prei Kuk.
Leave Phnom Penh via the Japanese Bridge and follow National Highway No 6 north 75km to the Skun intersection. (Skun is known for its exotic foods - check out the fried spiders, turtle eggs and more at the roadside stands.) Bear left and follow the NH No 6 to Kampong Thom - about 2-3 hours.
The Majestic temples of Angkor in northwest Cambodia belong to the classic period of Khmer art and civilization. Today, a millennium after they were built, they awe visits with their perfection and enmity. The temples are the creation of a succession of dominated most of Khmer Kings who presided over an empire that dominated most of present-day Southeast Asia from 800 to 1430, reaching its peak in the 12th century. The period began with the ascension to the throne by King Jayavarman II.
Angkor Wat is the largest temple in the world, with a volume of stone equaling that of the Cheops pyramid in Egypt. It is unlike all other Khmer temples in that it faces west, and it is inspired by 12th century Hinduism. Conceived by Suryavarman II, Angkor Wat took several decades to build. Intricate base relief surround Angkor Wat on four sides. Each tells a sty. The way the light glows on the ancient stones makes sunrise and sunset the best time to wander through Angkor Wat's 2 square kilometers, climb its tower.
The ancient walled city of Angkor Thom, literally "Great City, "built in the 12th century by Jayavarman VII, contains the famous Bayon temple with its me than 200 enormous mysterious smiling faces. It also contains the 300 meter-long Elephant terrace with its large sculptured royal elephants and Garudas, the mythical guard half-man, half-bird. Also within the walled area is the terrace of the Leper King. A sandstone replica of the Leper King is here.
This is the fabled pink temple of women, so called because it is made of pink sandstone & considered a tribute to the beauty of women. Its small size, delicate carving and remarkable state of preservation make Banteay Srei one of travelers' favorite temples. Its Apsara and male and female divinities represent the most skilled craftsman ship of sandstone carvings. It was dedicated in 987, making it one of the oldest temples in the region, though it was not rediscovered until the 1900s.
Prasat Neak Pean (Intertwined Naga) was built by Jayavarman VII, consists of a square pool with four smaller square pools arranged on each axis. In the center of the large central pool is a circular "island" encircled by the two Naga who intertwined tails give the temple its name. Water once flowed from the central pool into the four peripheral pools via ornamental spouts, which can still be seen in the pavilions at each axis of the pool.
At just about 42 km north of Siem Reap Town, many visits combine a visit to Phnom Kulen with a trip to the pink sandstone temple of Banteay Srei. On either side of the mountain, tall waterfalls crash down the mountain; clean, clear and cool water provide a wonderful place of tourists. Carvings of Brahmin Yonis and lingas can be seen etched into the riverbed. A mountain peak temple houses a huge reclining Buddha, gazing serenely out from his peaceful mountain home.
Boeung Mealea is the most accessible of Angkor's lost temples, a mirror image of the mighty Angkor Wat, but totally and utterly consumed by the jungle. Constructed by Suryavarman II (ruled 1113-1150), the builder of Angkor Wat, nature has triumphed here, and it's hard to get a sense of the monument's shape a mid the daunting ruins. Boeung Mealea lies about 70Km from Siem Reap at the foot of Phnom Kulen's eastern extreme. It takes 2-3 hours to get there via either Banteay Srei of Dam Dek on National Highway 6.
The original "River of a Thousand Lingas", Kbal Spean is and intricately carved riverbed deep in the foothills the Cambodian jungle. Lingas are phallic representations sacred to Hinduism as symbols of fertility, and hundreds of them are carved into the rock here, as are several carvings of Gods and animals above the small waterfall. The area was only rediscovered in 1969 when French researcher Jean Boulbet was shown the carvings by a local hermit. Kbal Spean lies 50Km northeast of Siem Reap 18Km from Banteay Srei on a dirt road. It takes from 1-2 hours to get there from Siem Reap.
Dominating the flat landscape, this 10th Century mountain temple is the most popular spot in the area to watch a classic sunset over Angkor Wat and the surrounding fest.
Les Artisans D' Angkor Chantiers-Ecoles
A complete visit of Arts and school will take you through the various training and production workshops of the Chantiers-Ecoles. Discover the traditional techniques used for wood sculpting, stone carving, lacquer work, polychromy and stone patina work, with the explanations of our experienced guides.
Angkor Silk Farm presents the grand tour of an 8-hectare site, to discover silk farming with specialized guides. Discover the various stages involved in silk production, from mulberry tree chards, to silkworm breeding, the spinning mill and the weaving process.
History of Angkor
Angkor’ literally means ‘Capital City’ or ‘Holy City’. ‘Khmer’ refers to the dominant ethnic group in modern and ancient Cambodia. In its modern usage, ‘Angkor’ has come to refer to the capital city of the Khmer Empire that existed in the area of Cambodia between the 9th and 12th centuries CE, as well as to the empire itself. The temple ruins in the area of Siem Reap are the remnants of the Angkorian capitals, and represent the pinnacle of the ancient Khmer architecture, art and civilization.
At its height, the Age of Angkor was a time when the capital area contained more than a million people, when Khmer kings constructed vast waterworks and grand temples, and when Angkor’s military, economic and cultural dominance held sway over the area of modern Cambodia, and much of Thailand, Vietnam and Laos.
The First Century: Indianisation
Southeast Asia has been inhabited since the Neolithic era, but the seeds of Angkorian civilization were sown in the 1st century CE. At the turn of the millennium, Southeast Asia was becoming a hub in a vast commercial trading network that stretched from the Mediterranean to China. Indian and Chinese traders began arriving in the region in greater numbers, exposing the indigenous people to their cultures, though it was Indian culture that took hold, perhaps through the efforts of Brahman priests. Indian culture, religion (Hinduism and Buddhism), law, political theory, science and writing spread through the region over a period of several centuries, gradually being adopted by existing states and giving rise to new Indianised princedoms.
Funan and Chendla:
Though the newly Indianised princely states sometimes encompassed large areas, they were often no larger than a single fortified city. They warred among themselves, coalescing over time into a shifting set of larger states. According to 3rd century Chinese chronicles, one of China’s principal trading partners and a dominant power in the region was the Indianised state of Funan centered in today’s southern Vietnam and Cambodia. There is evidence that the Funanese spoke Mon-Khmer, strongly indicating a connection to later Angkorian and Cambodian civilization.
Funan was predominate over its smaller neighboring states, including the state of Chendla in northern Cambodia. Over the later half of the 6th century, Funan began to decline, losing its western territories. Chendla, already in the ascendant, conquered the Khmer sections of western Funan, while the Mon people won the extreme western section of Funan in present day Thailand. Later, Chendla seems to have gone on to conquer the remainder of Funan, signaling the beginning of the ‘pre-Angkorian’ period. Chendla flourished but for a short time. The third and last king of a unified Chendla, Isanavarman I, constructed the pre-Angkorian temples of Sambor Prei Kuk near modern Kampong Thom city. (If you come to Siem Reap from Phnom Penh by road, you will pass through Kampong Thom. With a few spare hours, it is possible to make a side trip to these pre-Angkorian ruins).
Under Isanavarman I’s successor, Chendla disintegrated into smaller warring states. It was briefly reunited under Jayavarman I in the mid-7th century, only to fall apart again after his death. On traditional accounts, Chendla finally broke into two rival states or alliances, ‘Land Chendla’ in northern Cambodia/southern Laos, and ‘Water Chendla’ centered further south in Kampong Thom.
802CE: The Beginning
Jayavarman II was the first king of the Angkorian era, though his origins are recorded in history that borders on legend. He is reputed to have been a Khmer prince, returned to Cambodia around 790CE after a lengthy, perhaps forced stay in the royal court in Java. Regardless of his origin, he was a warrior who, upon returning to Cambodia, subdued enough of the competing Khmer states to declare a sovereign and unified ‘Kambuja’ under a single ruler. He made this declaration in 802CE in a ceremony on Kulen Mountain (Phnom Kulen) north of Siem Reap, where he held a ‘god-king’ rite that legitimized his ‘universal kingship’ through the establishment of a royal linga-worshiping cult. The linga-cult would remain central to Angkorian kingship, religion, art and architecture for centuries.
The ‘First’ Capital
After 802CE, Jayavarman II continued to pacify rebellious areas and enlarge his kingdom. Before 802CE, he had briefly based himself at a pre-Angkorian settlement near the modern town of Roluos (13km southeast of Siem Reap). For some reason, perhaps due to military considerations, he moved from the Roluos area to the Kulen Mountains. Some- time after establishing his kingship in 802CE, he moved the capital back to the Roluos area, which he named Hariharalaya in honor of the combined god of Shiva and Vishnu. He reigned from Hariharalaya until his death in 850CE.
Thirty years after Jayavarman II’s death, King Indravarman III constructed the temple of Preah Ko, the first major member of the ‘Roluos Group’, in honor of Jayavarman II. He then constructed Bakong, which was the first grand project to follow the temple-mountain architectural formula. When visiting these temples, note the deep, rich, detailed artistic style in the carvings that were characteristic of the period.
Indravarman III also built the first large baray (water reservoir), thereby establishing two more defining marks of the Angkorian kingship - in addition to the linga-cult, the construction of temple monuments and grand water projects became part of kingly tradition.
The Capital Moves to Angkor
Indravarman III’s son, Yasovarman I, carried on the tradition of his father, building the East Baray as well as the last major temple of the Roluos Group (Lolei), and the first major temple in the Angkor area (Phnom Bakheng). Upon completing Phnom Bakheng in 893CE, he moved his capital to the newly named Yasodharapura in the Angkor area. The move may have been sparked by Yasovarman I’s violent confrontation with his brother for the throne, which left the Royal Palace at Roluos in ashes. With one exception, the capital would reside in the Angkor area for the next 500 years.
A Brief Interruption
The exception took place in 928CE when, for reasons that remain unclear, there was a disruption in the royal succession. King Jayavarman IV moved the capital 100km from Angkor north to Koh Ker, where it remained for 20 years. When the capital returned to Angkor, it centered not at Phnom Bakheng as it had before, but further east at the new state-temple of Pre Rup (961CE).
The Khmer Empire at Angkor
An era of territorial, political and commercial expansion followed the return to Angkor. Royal courts flourished and constructed several major monuments including Ta Keo, Banteay Srey, Baphuon, and West Baray. Kings of the period exercised their military muscle, including King Rajendravarman who led successful campaigns against the eastern enemy of Champa in the mid 10th century. Just after the turn of the millennium, there was a 9-year period of political upheaval that ended when King Suryavarman I seized firm control in 1010CE. In the following decades, he led the Khmer to many important military victories including conquering the Mon Empire to the west (capturing much of the area of modern Thailand), thereby bringing the entire western portion of old Funan under Khmer control. A century later, King Suryavarman II led several successful campaigns against the Khmer’s traditional eastern enemy, Champa, in central and southern Vietnam.
Under Suryavarman II in the early 12th century, the empire was at its political/territorial apex. Appropriate to the greatness of the times, Suryavarman II produced Angkor’s most spectacular architectural creation, Angkor Wat, as well as other monuments such as Thommanon, Banteay Samre and Beng Melea. Angkor Wat was constructed as Suryavarman II’s state-temple and perhaps as his funerary temple. Extensive battle scenes from his campaigns against Champa are recorded in the superb bas-reliefs on the south wall of Angkor Wat.
By the late 12th century, rebellious states in the provinces, unsuccessful campaigns against the Vietnamese Tonkin, and internal conflicts all began to weaken the empire. In 1165, during a turbulent period when Khmer and Cham princes plotted and fought both together and against one another, a usurper named Tribhuvanadityavarman seized power at Angkor.
In 1177 the usurper was killed in one of the worst defeats suffered by the Khmers at the hands of the Cham. Champa, apparently in collusion with some Khmer factions, launched a sneak naval attack on Angkor. A Cham fleet sailed up the Tonle Sap River onto the great Tonle Sap Lake just south of the capital city. Naval and land battles ensued in which the city was assaulted, burned and occupied by the Cham. The south wall of Bayon displays bas-reliefs of a naval battle, but it is unclear whether it is a depiction of the battle of 1177 or some later battle.
Jayavarman VII: The Monument Builder
The Cham controlled Angkor for four years until the legendary Jayavarman VII mounted a series of counter attacks over a period of years. He drove the Cham from Cambodia in 1181. After the Cham defeat, Jayavarman VII was declared king. He broke with almost 400 years of tradition and made Mahayana Buddhism the state religion, and immediately began Angkor’s most prolific period of monument building.
Jayavarman VII’s building campaign was unprecedented and took place at a frenetic pace. Hundreds of monuments were constructed in less than a 40-year period. Jayavarman VII’s works included Bayon with its famous giant faces, his capital city of Angkor Thom, the temples of Ta Prohm, Banteay Kdei and Preah Khan, and hundreds of others. The monuments of this period, though myriad and grand, are often architecturally confused and artistically inferior to earlier periods, seemingly due in part to the haste with which they were rendered.
After a couple of days at the temples, you should begin to recognize the distinctive Bayon-style of Jayavarman VII’s monuments. Note the giant stone faces, the cruder carving techniques, simpler lintel carvings with little or no flourish, the Buddhist themes to the carvings and the accompanying vandalism of the Buddhas that occurred in a later period.
At the same time as his building campaign, Jayavarman VII also led an aggressive military struggle against Champa. In 1190 he captured the Cham king and brought him to Angkor. In 1203 he annexed all of Champa, thereby expanding the Khmer Empire to the eastern shores of southern Vietnam. Through other military adventures he extended the borders of the empire in all directions.
Jayavarman VII’s prodigious building campaign also represents the finale of the Khmer empire as no further grand monuments were constructed after his death in 1220. Construction on some monuments, notably Bayon, stopped short of completion, probably coinciding with Jayavarman VII’s death. His successor, Indravarman II continued construction on some Jayavarman VII monuments with limited success.
The End of an Era
Though the monument building had come to a halt, the capital remained active for years. Chinese emissary Zhou Daguan (Chou Ta-Kuan) visited Angkor in the late 13th century and describes a vibrant city in his classic, ‘Customs of Cambodia’.
Hinduism made a comeback under Jayavarman VIII in the late 13th century during which most of Angkor’s Buddhist monuments were systematically defaced. Look for the chipped out Buddha images on almost all of Jayavarman VII’s Buddhist monuments. Literally thousands of Buddha images have been removed in what must have been a huge investment of destructive effort. Interestingly, some Buddha images were crudely altered into Hindu lingas and Bodhisattvas. There are some good examples of altered images at Ta Prohm and Preah Khan.
Jayavarman VIII also constructed the final Brahmanic monument at Angkor - the small tower East Prasat Top in Angkor Thom. After Jayavarman VIII’s death, Buddhism returned to Cambodia but in a different form. Instead of Mahayana Buddhism, Theravada Buddhism took hold and remains the dominant religion in Cambodia to this day.
After the 13th century, Angkor suffered repeated invasions by the Thai from the west, pressuring the Khmer and contributing to the capital being moved from Angkor. After a seven-month siege on Angkor in 1431, King Ponhea Yat moved the capital from Angkor to Phnom Penh in 1432. This move may also have marked a shift from an agrarian-based economy to a trade based economy, in which a river junction location like Phnom Penh rather than the inland area of Angkor would be more advantageous. After the move to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia moved a couple of more times, first to Lovek and then Oudong, before finally settling permanently into Phnom Penh in 1866.
After the capital moved from Angkor, the temples remained active, though their function changed over the years. Angkor Wat was visited several times by western explorers and missionaries between the 16th and 19th century, but it is Henri Mouhot who is popularly credited with the ‘discovery’ of Angkor Wat in 1860. His book, ‘Travels in Siam, Cambodia, Laos and Annam’ is credited with bringing Angkor its first tourist boom.
The People of Angkor
Cambodia’s Angkor period is defined by the six-century rule of the Khmer Empire. The dawn of the Khmer civilization is the subject of an ongoing historical debate, but many scholars consider the reign of King Jayavarman II to be the impetus for a unified Khmer people. His kingship began sometime in the late 8th or early 9th Century when a Brahman priest named Jayavarman II the chakravartin, or universal monarch over Cambodia. Despite the celebrity of Jayavarman II in Cambodian history, the details of his rule are rooted deeper in the sand of legend and lore than in the firm soil of historical fact.
Following the obscure kingship of Jayavarman II, the Great Indravarman usurped the Khmer throne. Indravarman’s rule is characterized by the design and construction of a complex irrigation system, remnants of which still exist today. Under Indravarman’s rule, the young Khmer Empire began conceiving the trademark Angkor architectural style, identified by its strong devotion to Hindu and Buddhist religious concepts. Ingeniously, the Khmer irrigation system was used to embellish the Khmer temples in the form of gargantuan reflection aqueducts and water storage ponds. More than 1,000 years after the rule of Indravarman, we still use water to reflect our buildings, homes, temples, and monuments.
Indravarman’s son, Yasovarman, continued the work of his father, constructing some of the most important temple complexes of the Common Era. Yasovarman is identified as the inaugurator of the Phnom Bakheng and the Lolei Temples. Under his rule, the capital of the Khmer Empire was established in Angkor.
Building the Angkor Wat Temple Complex
From the rule of Yasovarman to the 12th century design and construction of the Angkor Wat temple complex, the Khmer people blossomed into the most significant religious, military, and social civilization in Southeast Asia. Their authority blanketed all of modern-day Cambodia, reaching into Vietnam, China, and across the Bay of Bengal.
King Suryavarman II is responsible for the construction of the Angkor Wat temple complex. He dedicated the temple to Vishnu, the Supreme God of Vaishnavite Hinduism, which remained its patron deity until the Cambodian people consecrated Angkor Wat to Theravada Buddhism in the 14th or 15th Century. Under Suryavarman II, the temple complex also served as the capital of the Khmer Empire and a strategic military post. Curiously, the original name of the temple remains unknown. Historians have not been able to locate any artifacts or inscriptions that refer to the temple complex by name.
The enormity of Angkor Wat was conceived and constructed with a level of precision and intention that continues to evade the modern mind. Some scholars believe that the temple complex was built to take advantage of Angkor’s water-rich agricultural potential. Other scholars attribute the construction of Angkor Wat to the Khmer belief in earth-star harmonization. The temple’s ground plan replicates the position of the stars in the Draco constellation.
Large portions of the Angkor Wat temple complex remain unfinished. Historical theory suggests that construction ended when Suryavarman II died. Regardless of why construction ceased, the temple’s unfinished status adds to Angkor Wat’s mysterious appeal.
Angkor Wat after the Khmer Empire
Since the fall of the Khmer Empire in the 15th Century C.E., Angkor Wat has remained one of the most significant religious structures in the world. Even after the Thais sacked the city in 1431, people from all across Asia continued to take religious pilgrimages to the ruined city, attributing its enormity and beauty to the gods of Hinduism and Buddhism.
The history of the Khmer Empire exists in the stone of Angkor Wat alone. Written inscriptions of the temple’s history, if they ever existed, have escaped modern examination. After the Thai takeover, Buddhist monks continued to preserve and uphold the sacred status of Ankgor Wat, but they overturned the original dedication of the temple to Hindu deity Vishnu. In Vishnu’s stead, the gods and concepts of Buddhism became the ruling principles of Angkor Wat.
In 1860, the French led an expedition into the heart of Cambodia attempting, inspired by the European hunger for exploration and discovery. Since the mid-1800s Europe and the West have been spellbound by the ancient city of Angkor Wat. The French pioneered an Angkor Wat restoration project in 1908 that continues to this day.