Angkor Thom Temple
Temple Name: Angkor Thom Temple
Notable Features: The Bayon. Richly ornamented temple gates.
Getting There: Angkor Thom is located 1.7 km northwest of the main entrance to Angkor Wat. Coming from the east, Angkor Thom is accessed via the Victory Gate, which is 1 km west of Ta Keo.
The Great City
King Jayavarman VII built Angkor Thom (sometimes referred to as Angkor Wat Thom) late in the 12th century as the capital of the Angkorian Empire. The temple was consecrated to the principles and deities of Hinduism. Angkor Thom, Cambodia is an ancient city (not a single temple) that stretches out across 9 square km of land. Its enormity is mind-boggling.
The exterior wall of Angkor Thom forms a massive square (each side measures 3 km in length). Encircling the walled city is a 100-meter wide moat. Most visitors will enter the spectacular city through the Southern Gate. Enormous carved Nagas (serpent humans) watch visitors enter the city from the apex of the Southern Gate.
Approaching the Southern Gate, visitors traverse a long stone pathway flanked with 54 carved figures. The figures represent an array of gods and demons. The gods are distinguished from the demons by their almond-shaped eyes. The demons, conversely, have bulging round eyes.
Inside the city walls, Angkor Thom is an impressive assembly of prasats (towers), temples, and other carved structures. The most notable structure in Angkor Thom is the Bayon, or the Temple of Stone Faces. This massive structure is one of the most photographed and recognizable objects in all of Cambodia, second only to Angkor Wat. The Angkor Thom Bayon is one of the most architecturally significant structures of the Khmer civilization.
Angkor Thom’s temple gates are richly ornamented, consisting of several exquisite bas-reliefs and hieroglyphs. There are five temple gates, one for each cardinal direction and another that leads to the Royal Temple. Each of the gates has withstood the test of time remarkably. The Northern Gate and Southern Gate, however, are the most stunning. They were the focus of a meticulous restoration project in the mid-1940s.
The inner workings of the city have mystified archeologists. Any attempt to understand the “Great City” depends on the individual examination of Angkor Thom’s multiple temples. Many of these temples were erected long before the “Great City” itself was established. As a result, Angkor Thom reflects generations of Khmer life.
Because Angkor Thom is so large, you should arrive early in the morning. Allot at least one full day to the exploration of Angkor Thom. Many of the city’s structures are made of red, pink, or salmon-colored sandstone. These structures are best photographed in the early morning or late afternoon hours. Bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and a good pair of walking shoes.