On our last day we toured the spectacular Angkor Thom whose name translates into the “Great City”. This last and most enduring capital of the Khmer empire lies about a mile from Angkor Wat on the right bank of the Siem Reap river.
The city was heavily guarded, fortified by a moat, wide embankment for solders and guard towers. Enclosed were the residences and administrative centers of the priest, palace officials and military. The first sight as we approached Angkor Thom was the imposing face of the 75 foot high tower gate.
The bridge is still a very functional entrance for an assortment of transportation vehicles be it tuk tuk…
Angkor Thom was first founded in 899 but a majority of the structures were constructed by Jayavarman VII who reigned from 1181 to 1220. He was also the ruler who built Ta Prohm which I explored in the previous “tree temple” post. Andy called this man the “Cambodian Donald Trump” which given the amount of buildings attributed to him seems accurate.
The ornately decorated Bayan was the official state temple and stands in the center of Angkor Thom. From a far it looks chaotic especially when compared to the stately and symmetrical Angkor Wat.
Once a top the terraces the beauty of the Bayon expresses itself magnificently. Especially impressive are the stone faces that look out in each direction from the towers in all there were 216 present.
The temple was originally dedicated as a Mahayana Buddhist shrine, later rulers altered it to Hinduism and later back to Theravada Buddhist before being abandoned back into the jungle. Today there is again some evidence of its religious importance.
The Baphuon is a temple located northwest of the Bayon. It was built in the mid-11th century not by “J VII” but by another ruler whose building style was not as sturdy. By the 20th century most of the structure had collapsed but in April 2011 after 51 years it was reopened. Unfortunately it was deemed to steep for children under 12 so we viewed it from afar.
However, nearby was Phimeanakas which was also quite steep but deemed accessible for adventurous 5 year old boys. Aidan was more than happy to climb to the top while poor Sydney had to look on enviously from below. Legend has it that the King had to lie with Nagini, the girl with a serpents body, every night in this temple before going to his wives and concubines. If he failed to perform this duty even one night the kingdom was doomed. Hmmm-maybe that is why Andy offered to trek to the top while the girls stayed below…
Sydney would scream with delight at each passing pachyderm…
I preferred the stoic Elephant Terrace with its spectacular carvings.
At the end of our tour we finally took a photo with all four of us. Usually the photographer is left out.
Once again the vastness, expanse and intricacies of the Angkor Complex are overwhelming and stunning.