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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrAngkor Thom (the “Great City”), is a big, historical temple complex in Siem Reap, Cambodia. While it is part of the overall Angkor compound, it is mostly overshadowed by the smaller Angkor Wat in terms of visitors. This beautiful area houses some of the more beautiful and famous temples, such as Baphuon , Bayon, and Phimeanakas. It is a great experience to roam around the temples (one of a few in the world that will actually allow visitors to climb and touch the structures), and spend a day just taking it all in. This was the last enduring capital of the the Khmer Empire, built in the 12th century by King Jayavarman VII.
Getting ThereIt is recommended to rent a tuk-tuk for a day (from $ 25 USD up) to take you around the Angkor compound. Unless you are used to biking long stretches of miles in high heat (think around 24°+ Celsius on average) and high humidity conditions, then biking around yourself is not for you. The tuk-tuk, at least, gives you a respite from the heat as you jump from temple to temple, and saves you the energy needed from pedaling for more exploration.
What to See
The Gatesyou can get your tuk-tuk driver to slow down or find a spot where he can stop, you have got to take a photo at the gate. There are intricately carved statues, and look as if they are holding huge logs. The passageway (which can only fit one vehicle at a time) has very good detailing, and feels almost ethereal.
BaphuonA collapsed temple that's home to a huge reclining Buddha. Archaeologists are still trying to rebuild the temple, as there are no records left on how it was originally built and which stones belong to which position. It is quite a big complex to see - which involves you walking on a columned walkway, intended to have a pond on the left and right side of it. If you are curious, you can also go under the walkway and see how the columns are placed. They are absolutely straight and it will blow your mind off how they managed to do such a thing like that thousands of years ago.
BayonDon't miss the temple that's carved with faces on all four sides. See the Bayon article for more information.
Phimeanakas (Prasat Phimean Akas)Known as the celestial temple, it was a Hindu temple built in the 10th century by King Rajendravarman. You can actually go up to the topmost part, but the stairs are steep and the other side of the temple is not even restored.
Elephant TerraceGreat for photos, it's got sculptures on the walls that look like elephants, with the columns looking like elephant trunks. It was used by King Jayavarman to look at his returning, victorious army from their various missions. It used to be part of the walls that make up the Phimeanakas, much of which is destroyed.
Terrace of the Leper King (Preah Learn Sdech Kunlung)It's a maze of sorts, find the entrance to this place, which is almost underground, and when you do find your way around, you'll see a tall wall with lots of apsaras (Apsara ) and other sculptures/carvings on the wall. While not entirely big, this is not for claustrophobic people. It's great to see the inside, as not many tourists venture inside the maze-like structure. It was named as the terrace of the leper king because apparently the moss that's growing on the structure is reminiscent of a person suffering from leprosy.
Ride an Elephant Around the CompoundControversial treatment of elephants aside, it is a good and unique way to see the Angkor Thom compound. The departure point is near the Bayon temple. You may need to wait a little in a queue, so if you're short on time, skip this one and explore on your own. To reiterate, do not avail these services if you value animal rights.
- Go to Angkor Thom in the afternoon, after you have done your tour of Angkor Wat. Note that it does get really, really crowded in Bayon during late morning, with all these busloads of tourists trying to take photos with the faces so be warned
- In some of the temples, some kids will tie a red string on your wrist and ask you to give a donation to a Buddha altar that they may have set up. While you are not required to do so, and while other websites may think this is some sort of a scam, it is still a great experience. They will bless you with smoked incense, then ask you to bow down in front of the Buddha.
- Find the staircases leading up to different levels in every temple you go to, some of them are hidden, while some are pretty obvious. They will lead you to some dark corridors which are perfect to explore.
- Always bring plenty of bottled water. You can't drink water from the tap and the hot & humid weather is unforgiving.
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Author: ruby917. Last updated: Feb 27, 2015