Angkor Thom isn’t a temple, it’s city since ‘Angkor’ means ‘city’ and ‘Thom’ means ‘big’. This is one of the best things to do in Siem Reap. And when hearing about Angkor Thom, you’ll hear names like Bayon, Ta Prohm, Baphuon temple and more, all are works of art.
Founded by King Jayavarman VII, the most important king of the Khmer Empire, a Buddhist and surly a great architect, Angkor Thom was the new capital city after Cham invasion, home to nearly one million people.
Angkor Thom remained as Khmer empire’s capital throughout its decline, and was probably fully abandoned in the 16th century. It is now, as with the other temples in the Angkor Park, a World Heritage site.
A wall of 8m high and 12km long with five gates surrounds the city of Angkor Thom. Some of the gates are decorated with statues of gods and demons holding nagas, and the gates themselves are adorned with the face of Avalokiteshvara, the goddess of compassion.
The wall itself is circled by a 100m wide moat. Bayon is in the center of this area, with Baphuon slightly to the west, and some of the smaller temples further north. The stunningly intricate Terrace of Elephants and Terrace of the Leper King are to the north of Bayon.
Bayon is just fascinating with the smiling faces of Avalokiteshvara staring down at you on high. As the center of Angkor Thom, you can’t skip Bayon.
Just 200m west of Bayon, Baphuon was marked as the center of the city when the construction of Angkor Thom came to an end. A pyramidal representation of Mount Meru, at the time, it was probably one of the most impressive of the Angkor temples. A 200m elevated walkway leads to the temple which has a central tower 43m high.
Terrace of the Elephants
A royal terrace featuring many statues and images of elephants on a 2.5m high and 300m long platform with five staircases. This 350m long terrace was supposedly used as a platform from which Jayavarman VII viewed his victorious returning army >>> Read more
Terrace of the Leper King
The reason for the site’s name is the finding of “Leper King” statue. Terrace of Leper King was built by Jayavarman VII in late 12th century, just north of Terrace of Elephants. >>> Read more
Phimeanakas has an interesting history to itself. It used to house a Royal Palace, where bathing would take place (the pools are still apparent) but very little remains. However, a climb up its pyramidal structure gives nice views of the surrounding area.