Angkor Thom, which means “Great City” in Khmer. It is the last capital city of the Khmer empire before the kingdom declined in which the city was abandoned some time before 1609. Personally, I prefer my visit to Angkor Thom compared to Angkor Wat because there is so much to see, walking around a city, compared a single temple (regardless of the size). It’s a shame that towards the builders started to use wood for construction (probably because the forest provides builders with an infinite supply of materials), and all wooden constructions have perished.
Entering Angkor Thom through the south gate, you will be greeted by two big Naga statues in a tug-of-war with a row of devas on the left and asuras on the right. Given the level of detail in the architecture, I imagine the city during its prime would have been very grand.
The next stop is the Bayon temple. The last temple built at Angkor and the only state temple dedicated to Buddhism. It is also easiest to spot because of the 216 gigantic faces on the temple towers.
On the northwest of the Bayon temple lies the Baphuon temple. The first thing you will notice about this temple is the long walkway to the entrance of the temple.
The Baphuon temple may look less impressive than the Bayon temple but it is mainly due to the fact that it was built on land filled with sand and its immense size that the site was unstable. Throughout its history, large portions of the temple has collapsed.
The picture on the right shows what the temple may have looked like in the 11th century. Rather spectacular, if I may add.
Note that you will need to be adequately dressed (no sleeveless shirts and shorts above the knees allowed) in order to enter the temple. One of my friends was denied entry to the temple as she was not in the appropriate attire.
While the inside of the temple is not accessible, you will be able to walk around the 3 levels of the temple, through the narrow corridors and see the view outside the temple from above. Watch your head though because at 1.7 meters, I had to duck each time I walk through the open doors.
If you are unfortunate enough to be denied entry into the temple, have a walk around the temple to experience the immerse size of the temple. Besides, the exit is on the other end and you need to get around to continue the rest of the tour anyway.
Behind Baphuon temple is a path that leads to the Royal Palace that was built in the 11th century. There isn’t a lot to see in the present state of the Royal Palace because many of the structures were made of wood and what’s left now is just Phimeanakas (celestial temple) in the middle of the Royal Palace which is a stone building and you can climb up the stairs to explore the top.
Walking around the Royal palace, you will also see the Leper King Terrace and Elephant Terrace before you reach the end of your tour around Angkor Thom.
Finally, I will be bringing you to Ta Prohm, the last temple to visit to round off the full Angkor Wat experience.