If you’re going to see Angkor Wat, the world’s largest religious complex and the jewel of South East Asia, you’ll get a lot more out of it if you know a little bit of the history. The History Channel’s Angkor Wat documentary is currently on YouTube
One of the things I discovered while backpacking is that when you go to see ancient monuments and the like, it really helps to know a little bit about them beforehand. With Angkor Wat, the world’s largest religous complex, it doesn’t really matter – you can’t help be completely stunned by the sheer size, beauty and scale of ambition it shows, whether or not you know anything about its history. But when you have an idea of why and how it was built, and the significance of Angkor Wat itself and the other incredible temples around it, like the Bayon and Ta Phrom (the one featured in the Tomb Raider movies), it takes on a whole new dimension.
I wrote Angkor Wat: A Brief Guide which gives suggestions of an itinerary of the main Angkor temples to visit over a day and a half, and the guidebook Angkor: Heart Of An Asian Empire provides a concise and fascinating history that’s packed full of photos and anecdotes. However, you might find a movie easier to digest: The History Channel did a one hour documentary on Angkor’s origins and how this most impressive of city-states came to be abandoned by the 14 century. You can currently see the documentary on YouTube in 5 parts, although it might disappear pretty soon.