Here is a guest post from Australian Ian Stephens, a good friend of your editor.
Angkor Wat is a world heritage listed historical site just outside the city of Siem Reap in northern Cambodia. It is the largest religious monument in the world, covering an area of 820,000 square meters. The 4.5 meter high sandstone perimeter wall is 3.6 kilometers long and is surrounded by a moat which itself is 190 meters wide. Archeologists estimate that between 7 and 10 million stone blocks were used at the site, some weighing up to 1500 kilograms; this is a greater volume and mass of stone than that in the Great Pyramid in Egypt.
It was built by the Khmer ruler Suryavarman II between 1113 and 1150 AD.The Khmer ruled much of the Indochina area at this time. They were an ethnic group of the region who through battles and treaties gathered an extensive empire which included all of present day Cambodia and parts of Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. Most of the present day population of Cambodia are Khmers.
The complex was constructed to serve three important functions. Its primary function was to honour Vishnu and other gods and the cosmology of the Hindu religion; the massive and magnificent temple structure was built to that end. Secondly, it was the ruler's royal residence, palace and seat of power and thirdly it was the capital of the Khmer empire at that time; the whole complex showcasing the empire’s immense power and wealth.
The sandstone from which it was built mostly came from quarries at a mountain 25 kilometers away (Mt Kulen today) and archeologists think it was transported to the site on rafts using a network of canals. The Khmers were well known for their ingenuity in the use of water.
The complex was originally called Vrah Vishnuloka (the sacred dwelling place of Vishnu) because the religious practice at the time incorporated many elements of Hinduism especially the worship of Vishnu. After the death of Suryavarman II, the next ruler Jayavarman VII embraced Buddhism, as did the empire, and the name was changed to Angkor Wat. The word Angkor signifies royalty and was also the name of the plain in northern Cambodia which was the heart of the empire and where Angkor Wat is located. Wat is a regional word meaning temple.
"Buddhist monks in front of the Angkor Wat" by sam garza - originally posted to Flickr as Angkor Wat. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Buddhist_monks_in_front_of_the_Angkor_Wat.jpg#/media/File:Buddhist_monks_in_front_of_the_Angkor_Wat.jpg