Angkor Thom literally means 'big city' in the Khmer language. In ancient times, it was the capital of the Khmer Empire and its administrative and religious centre. The city was founded by king Jayavarman VII who introduced Buddhism in the architecture.
The city was surrounded by a moat of 100m and had a lenght of 12km. They say that crocodiles in the moat had to scare off the enemies. Besides this a wall of 8m high had to protect the city of intruders. Only the royal family, priests, militairy and officials lived within the wall. Jayavarman VII built the Bayon as the centre of the capital. Angkor Thom has five entrances roads which lead you over the moat to the city. Two rows of 54 gods and 54 demons flanking the roads. Most of the statues are restored with replicas. The gods and demons hold a nine-headed snake in their hands. The 23m high access portals are decorated with three-headed elephants. The access portal in the south is one of the most photographed places. You have the best light to take pictures in the morning.
The temple with the smiling faces in the middle of Ankor Thom is one of the most famous buildings in Angkor. The Bayon has 54 towers with 216 cold smiling faces of Avalokiteshvara that are more or less a resemblance of the king himself. The huge heads symbolize power and control of the Khmer Empire with some humanity. The heads are in full-face or in profile and look from a height down on you. Most people think the faces are the same but when we look closer you will notice not one face is the same. The Bayon stays a mystery. Its exact function and symbolism is still not know. Also not much is known about the people that lived there.
The Bayon is 45m high and has three levels. The galleries on the first and second level have historical and religieus bas-reliefs. The third level has a central circular tower, which is unique in Khmer Architecture. The levels are linked by stairs and small yards.
Most people visit the Bayon in the early morning when face after face is lighted from the east or late in the afternoon. In the evening before sunset you will have the same effect in reverse.
Baphuon is located 200m west of Bayon. It is had been one of the most interesting temples. It has a pyramidal construction of Mt Meru. The accomplishment of the temple took many years and was completed by Udayadityavarman II. It was the centre of the city before Angkor Thom was built. A lot of restauration efforts have been done to rebuilt this temple. The temple was taken apart piece by piece and each stone was numbered and documented. All the documents were destroyed during the Khmer Rouge. The 10 year restauration started again in 1995 leaving the constructors with a hug puzzle to solve. A 200m elevated way leads you to the temple with a central tower of 43m high. On the western side we have the retaining wall of the second level which shows a 60m long lying buddha.
In the north we hava Phimeanakas which means Celestial Palace. King Rajendravarman II started with the construction of the Royal Palace but it got its final form under Jayavarman VII. It resembles a pyramid of sandstone and laterite with three levels. For the first time they used a rectangle basic shape as contruction for a temple. On the top we have a columns gallery around the central tower. The top is partly destroyed but it is still worth to climb the steep small stairs on the westside. Tourists will get an amazing view. The two ponds in the north were used by the royal family to bath in.
Preah Palilay is located 200m from Phimeanakas. Orginally you could find a Buddha in there. This was also established by Jayavarman VII. Now you have hug trees looming over the sanctuary.
This is a cruciform terrace of 82m by 34m. It is located 150m from Preah Palilay. It was once the base of a pagoda. Near this construction you find a 4.5m high Buddha that is a reconstruction of its orginal one.
Preah Pithu is a group of Hindu and Buddhist temples which have fine decorated terraces and guardian elephants and lions. It is located accross Tep Pranam.
TERRACE OF THE LEPER KING
This 7m high platform is located north of the Terrace of Elephants. It was built in the 12th century. The inner and outer walls are decorated with bas-reliefs. You can admire bas-reliefs with garudas, nagas, apsaras and kings with crowns and swords. This terrace was reconstructed completey and this the reason why it displays so many base-reliefs of this good quality. On top of the platform you will see a nude statue of which the original is kept in the National Museum of Phnom Penh. The exact meaning of the statue isn't known. They know that two of the kings had leprosy but most likely the statue resembles Yama the God of Death. Which means that the terrace was used as the royal crematory.
TERRACE OF ELEPHANTS
The 350m long terrace was build in the 13th century by king Jayavarman VII. From a wooden pavilion the king looked down on the festivities which were hold on the piazza infront of the platform. The stairs are decorated with lions and garudas. Life-sized images of elephants and their guardians are displayed on the walls of the terrace.
KLEANGS & PRASAT SUOR PRAT
The Kleangs are two groups of buildings which at one time have been palaces. We have the north and south Kleang. In front of the two Kleangs we have 12 laterite towers known as the Prasat Suor Prat of Temple of the Tightrope Dancers. We believe that these were also created by Jayavarman VII. It is believed that artists performed for the king on tightropes strung between these towers.