March 1, 2009

in Angkor Temples

Temple Name: Phimeanakas
Notable Features: The peculiar design work of temple’s three tiers.
Getting There: Phimeanakas is located within the Royal palace of Angkor Thom. Angkor Thom is an extremely popular temple destination. Any tuk tuk driver or tour guide will know how to take you there.

Angkor Thom’s Tallest Scalable Structure

What this pyramid lacks in size, it makes up for with its peculiar architectural style. At first glance, the various layers of Phimeanakas seem to have been assembled haphazardly, without rhyme or reason. But upon deeper review, you will notice that this pyramid is a meticulously designed work of art. Few of Phimeanakas’ original carvings have survived the ages, but the temple itself is a remarkable site.

Despite its relatively small size, Phimeanakas is actually the tallest scalable structure in all of Angkor Thom. Most visitors climb the pyramid via the western staircase, which has the most gradual incline. The temple’s other staircases are quite steep, and can be quite dangerous to ascend.

According to Khmer legend, a golden prasat (tower) once sat atop the pyramid of Phimeanakas. Inside the golden prasat lived a nine-headed serpent-spirit. Every night the serpent-spirit would transform into a beautiful woman and demand sex from the Angkorian king. If the king neglected or refused the serpent-spirit’s demand, tragedy would strike the Khmer kingdom.

King Rajendravarman erected Phimeanakas towards the end of the 10th century. Successors to the throne of Khmer Empire made amendments to the temple’s appearance. As a result, Phimeanakas gives visitors a cross-sectional view of Khmer history.

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