Angkor Thom tour: the ancient "Big City" of Cambodia

April 2013

The famous archeological site of Angkor Thom in Cambodia is the capital of the ancient Khmer empire and its civilization which developed about a millennium ago. Consisting of a real city of an area of 9 square kilometers, Angkor Thom contains large buildings and temples which are often decorated with low reliefs carefully detailed. They are an important historical document of the lives of these people.

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Angkor Thom , south door
Siem Reap River

Angkor Thom means "Big City" and it was founded in the twelfth century AD by the Khmer, who had made the capital of the empire. The city, which covers an area of ​​about 9 square kilometers, is surrounded by walls and protected from the Siem Reap River. It was reached through four gates arranged to cardinal points.

In these photos, the southern gate and the access bridge flanked by two rows of statues.

 

Angkor Thom - Bayon temple
Being a real city, the archaeological site of Angkor Thom is home to different types of buildings suitable for different uses. The tour begins at the Bayon at Angkor Thom, the famous "temple-mountain" the major center of worship of the country.

 

Bayon Cambodia archaeological ruins
Photo of Angkor Thom. The Bayon Temple at Angkor Thom is in fairly good condition although the ruins, sometimes scattered in a disorderly manner, could make it look like the opposite. The property is huge and it takes several hours to be completely visited.

 

Archeology
Games of forms and perspectives among the archaeological ruins of the Bayon temple at Angkor Thom.

 

Bas- reliefs Bas-reliefs in Angkor
Photo of Bayon temple. Some external walls are finely carved with extensive bas-reliefs. The structure is mainly built of sandstone, a stone relatively easy to work with and to carve.



 

Bas-reliefs Bas-reliefs in Angkor Thom
Bas-relief Bas-relief in Angkor Thom
The bas-reliefs, tens of meters long, depict scenes of war, triumphal scenes or simply represent scenes of everyday life.

 

Angkor Temples Angkor Temple
Angkor Thom Cambodia
Photos of Angkor Thom in Cambodia: the doors and porches that allow access to the inner courtyard of the temple.

 

Angkor Thom Temple Angkor Thom
Angkor Thom Cambodia

The Bayon temple is built in the homonymous style called "Bayon" from the name of the temple itself. The Bayon style is characterized by large buildings and tall square towers with huge faces of Buddha carved on the facade.

 

Bayon Temple
One of the high square towers with the face of Buddha carved on the facades; they are oriented towards the four cardinal points.

 

Bayon (Angkor Thom) Bayon Temple in Cambodia
Detailed depictions of women are on the sides of the doors to the various corridors and various rooms, but not only this. . The reason for the massive presence of women carved bas-reliefs on the facades of buildings of Angkor has not yet been explained with certainty by archaeologists, but it seems that these women Khmer were the real gods and that their presence has not only had the simple function of decoration.

 

Entering the temple of Bayon on the first floor,you cross a long corridor which gives access to the inner parts of the temple


Bayon Temple Bayon
The large porches, including their columns, instead reveal the presence of beautiful bas-reliefs, in nearly perfect condition,depicting women in and deities

 

Buddha faces
A beautiful view over the towers with the Buddha faces carved in the facades, now opens.

 

A steep staircase provides access to the upper terrace of the temple, for a close-up view on the big towers.

 

Face of Buddha Bayon (Angkor)
The enormous faces of Buddha carved on the facades of the towers at the four cardinal points.

 

One of the great towers seen from below.

 

Faces of Buddha Buddha carved in the rock
Carved face of Buddha arved faces of  Buddha
The faces of Buddha

 

Female representation in  Angkor Cambodia
Again other depictions of women, carved with great attention to even the smallest details.

 

Female sculpture Angkor Cambodia
After a few hours spent among the ruins, I leave the Bayon temple to continue the tour of Angkor Thom; it is a real city, the center of Khmer civilization, still offering much.

 

Baphuon Temple Baphuon (Angkor)
The tour then continues to Angkor Thom to the temple of Baphuon, a large building organized on five levels, built in the eleventh century AD and dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva.




 

Baphuon Baphuon  Temple(Angkor Thom)
The major structure of the temple and the steep steps necessary to reach the top of the building.

 

Baphuon (Cambodia) Angkor Baphuon
Photos of the top part of the temple of Baphuon, with the beautiful view over the other buildings and the jungle.

 

The tour continues at Angkor Thom from the temple of Baphuon to the area that contained the former Royal Palace, surrounded by a large wall with some doors.

 

Phimeanakas Temple Phimeanakas Cambodia
Unfortunately, nothing remains of the Royal Palace, but the nearby temple Phimeanakas is interesting for its three levels pyramid-shaped.

 

Royal swimming pool
Close to the Royal Palace, the large Royal pool survives; here you can see its stone walls.

 

Terrace of the Elephants Terrace of the  Elephants - Cambodia
The tour ends at Angkor Thom after a long walk to the Terrace of the Elephants, a structure over 300 meters long, which is the Royal Square in the center of town. The name derives from the presence of numerous low-relief sculptures of elephants, which are present along the base. It is thought that, thanks to the wide spaces surrounding the Terrace of the Elephants, this area had been used by the Khmer civilization for important religious ceremonies or for a number of speeches by the king to the people or the army.

 

Terrace of the Elephants- Angkor Three headed-elephant
The access to the Terrace of the Elephants is through wide staircases lined with statues representing three headed-elephants.





 

Terrazza del Re Lebbroso
the Terrace of the Leper King- Cambodia the Terrace of the Leper King- Angkor
At the end of the Terrace of the Elephants, we find the Terrace of the Leper King, a large maze-like structure, where the walls are carved with an endless series of bas-reliefs depicting deities. The name has been given recently, when a statue whose features resembled those of a person suffering from leprosy was discovered.

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English translation by Lorena Anzani.