Angkor Thom embodies the power of the old Khmer Empire. This city once supported perhaps a million people. For centuries, it was the capital of the empire. After Angkor Wat, it is one of the most popular tourist spot in Cambodia today.

Everything about Angkor Thom is massive. It is surrounded by a large walls with enormous gates which were once guarded by an impressive moat (believed to be filled with ferocious crocodiles!) The temples, statues and monuments within are marvels that everyone should see in their lifetimes.

Angkor Thom Photos

Angkor Archaeological Park guide

Highlights

  • Bayon – Built by the legendary king Jayavarman VII, Bayon stands at the center of the old walled city. It is best known for its 216 coldly smiling faces that decorate its 54 gothic towers. You should visit Bayon just after sunrise when the sun inches upwards, lighting face after face on the sides of the temple.
  • Baphuon – During its prime, Baphuon was one of the most spectacular of the Angkor temples. Unfortunately, today, it is the victim of centuries of decay.
  • Preah Palilay –  One of the most atmospheric temples in Angkor Thom. Preah Palilay once housed a giant Buddha. Unfortunately, that is long gone.
  • Terrace of the Leper King – A 7m-high plaltform, on top of which stands a large, nude statue or a leper. Legend has it that at least two of the kings of the Khmer Empire had leprosy. This statue may represent one of them.
  • Terrace of Elephants – This used to be a giant viewing stand for public ceremonies in Angkor Thom. Try standing on top of this 350m-long terrace and imagine yourself gazing upon a mass of people and elephants.

Map

History

Angkor Thom was constructed in the late 12th- early 13th century by Jayavarman VII, one of the greatest kings of the old Khmer Empire. Shortly before his reign began, Angkor was brutally sacked by the Chams, an enemy of the Khmer Empire. Jayavarman’s response was to gather the resources of the empire together for a large building program.

It took decades to construct, but Jayavarman’s new capital ended up enduring for centuries. After the decline of the Khmer Empire in the 15th century, Angkor Thom declined and by the 17th century was completely abandoned. In 1609, the first European visitor arrived and described it as “fantastic as the Atlantis of Plato.” He even speculated that it was constructed by the Roman Empire!

Angkor Thom, like its more famous neighbor Angkor Wat, became a treasured part of the French Empire in the late 19th Century. In spite of the problems Cambodia faced in the 20th century, including the spillover from the Vietnam War and the brutal regime of the Khmer Rouge, Angkor Thom remained intact. Today it is a popular tourist destination.

 

One Review

  1. Sara
    Sara 29 Comments
     -  06 Jun 2017

    It was good

    All in all this is a great attraction.
    I have to say I found there was too many locals trying to sell whatsoever, which is a little tiring after a while.

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