"History" Angkor Thom Tip by Willettsworld

Angkor Thom, Angkor Wat: 128 reviews and 292 photos

  Souther gateway into Angkor Thom
by Willettsworld
 
  • Souther gateway into Angkor Thom - Angkor Wat
      Souther gateway into Angkor Thom
    by Willettsworld
  • Bayon - Angkor Wat
      Bayon
    by Willettsworld
  • Elephant terrace - Angkor Wat
      Elephant terrace
    by Willettsworld
  • Prasat Suor Prat - Angkor Wat
      Prasat Suor Prat
    by Willettsworld
  • Baphuon - Angkor Wat
      Baphuon
    by Willettsworld
 

One of the largest of the ancient Khmer cities, Angkor Thom (which means Great City) was the state capital of Jayavarman VII and was believed to support a population of over a million. Jayavarman VII ruled the Khmer empire from around 1181 to 1220, with the site remaining in use for hundreds of years after his death. Work commenced on the city more or less as a rebuilding project after the previous state capital was sacked by marauding Chams. While the vast majority of people are believed to have lived outside the city's walls ? towards the East and West Barays and Siem Reap river ? nothing remains of their wooden dwellings and the enclosure itself has been largely taken back by the forest.

The scale of Angkor Thom is daunting. It measures 3km in length on each of its four 8m-high walls ? all of which was once surrounded by a moat up to 100m wide. While today much of the moat has been given over to rice cultivation, it would be a safe assumption that the moat was once inhabited by something with a snappier bite than carp! There are five 20m-tall gates, one on each of the south, west and north walls, with the eastern wall having two. The northernmost of the two eastern gates leads from the Royal Palace to the Eastern Baray.

After visiting Angkor Wat, you enter Angkor Thom via the southern gate. As with all five bridges, the bridge here is flanked by two sets of statues recreating a scene taken from the legend of the Churning of the Sea of Milk. To your left are gods and to the right demons, all dragging on massive naga balustrades. Some of the statues are replicas while others have been transported from the lesser used bridges.

After entering through the narrow entrance you're inside the city where the most notable earlier temples within the city are the former state temple of Baphuon, and Phimeanakas, which was incorporated into the Royal Palace. But the centrepiece of Angkor Thom is the magnificent Bayon with its multitude of faces.

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  • Written Apr 27, 2010
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