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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Angkor Thom: Victory Gate, Bayon Temple, Prasats Suor Prat, Terrace of the Leper King, Terrace of the Elephants, and Phimeanakas - Cambodia

So after our very early morning exploring Angkor Wat, we went back to the hotel for breakfast and a nap. Then it was onto to Angkor Thom (great city). Here's a map to Angkor Archeological Park so you can get an idea of where buildings are in relation to each other. And this is a close-up map of Angkor Thom grounds. Again according to Wikipedia, Angkor Thom was the last and most enduring Khmer capital. It was built in the 12th century by king Jayavarman VII. Former state temples Baphuon and Phimeanakas, built centuries earlier on the site, were incorporated into the Royal Palace. Statues on the bridge to the Victory Gate entrance into Angkor Thom.

Angkor Thom 1

The statues appear to be engaged in a tug of war, perhaps a recreation of the Churning of the Sea of Milk? If you notice, the statue in front appears well-preserved. Too well-preserved. Throughout the years, many of the original heads have been stolen and sold on the black market.

Angkor Thom 2

Close-up of Victory Gate.

Angkor Thom 3

Backside of Victory Gate.

Angkor Thom 4

Bayon temple was built in the late 12th or early 13th century. It doesn't look like much from afar.

Angkor Thom 5

Until you catch a glimpse of the faces.

Angkor Thom 6

There are an estimated 200 faces. I first thought they were images of Buddha, but they look to me like an exact replica of the statue of king Jayavarman VII that is on display at the Musee Guimet in Paris. Or do you think the faces are of Lokesvara?

Angkor Thom 7

Close-ups from the upper terrace. Bayon once had 49 towers, only 37 remain.

Angkor Thom 8
Angkor Thom 9
Angkor Thom 10
Angkor Thom 11
Angkor 12

On the grounds inside Angkor Thom.

Angkor Thom 13


Angkor Thom 14

Another butterfly.

Angkor Thom 15

The butterflies were found somewhere around the area of the Terrace of the Leper King and the Terrace of the Elephants. I was simply too tired and reaching ruin-overload so I was remiss in snapping photos. But luckily, Kirk of Mmm-yoso has lots of photos and a very detailed description of his visit.

Prasats Suor Prat (towers of the tight-rope dancers). No one is quite sure what these 12 towers built in the late 12th century were used for. If you believe the name, a high wire stretched between each tower for acrobats to perform during festivals. Or were they used to resolve disputes with contestants sitting on the tower, while his relatives remained at the base, until the person showed their guilt by coming down with ulcers or other maladies after several days?

Angkor Thom 16

I think this building is Phimeanakas (celestial temple). Built at the end of the 10th century as a Hindu temple. It was later rebuilt as a pyramid with a tower on top. Legend has it that the king must spend the first watch of each night on top of the tower with a Naga girl. I'm not sure if the legend refers to Naga as the Hindu and Buddhist definition of a race of supernatural beings with snake-like attributes or as a revered ancestor of the Cambodians, but either way, if the king did not show up, his land was doomed.

Can you see the guy in the window? That tiny splash of color is why I like this shot. It was hot and humid and after climbing Angkor Wat and Bayon, and walking around inside Angkor Thom, my friends and I were too tired to climb Phimeanakas.

Angkor Thom 17

On Royal Palace grounds, still inside Angkor Thom. If you refer back to the map of the inside of Angkor Thom, I think this is one of those large pools near Phimeanakas.

Angkor Thom 18

One of my favorite shots. I loved the contrast of the monks' saffron robes against the grayish-green background.

Angkor Thom 19

Another favorite shot. I liked the center focus on the stone head. My tour guide said when they try to reconstruct temples, they first lay them all out like this so they can figure out what goes where.

Angkor Thom 20

I suggest reading my Cambodia series in this order:
Dith Pran and the Killing Fields Memorial in Siem Reap - Cambodia
Khmer Classical Dance at Koulen Restaurant - Siem Reap - Cambodia
Angkor Wat
Angkor Thom: Victory Gate, Bayon Temple, Terrace of the Leper King, Terrace of the Elephants, Prasats Suor Prat, and Phimeanakas
Ta Prohm
Chong Kneas Floating Village - Tonle Sap (Great Lake) - Cambodia

For a related post on Cambodian food: Battambang Seafood Restaurant - San Gabriel

In other news: Wow! This is my 500th post! I've got some backdated posts that still need to be updated so I'm only counting the posts in which I hit "publish post." 500!!!

1 year ago today, Japanese Gobo Root (Burdock) Fries.


  1. Makes me wonder what daily life looked like all those hundreds of years ago when it was inhabited. Hm...

    Happy 500th!

  2. Hey WC - Congrats on hitting 500 posts! That's quite a milestone.

  3. Wow, 500! Makes me wonder how many are on your queue to be published! =)

  4. Christine D.,
    That's what I kept wondering the whole time I walked around. What each building would have looked like in its glory, what the people would have been doing, etc.


    I think there's at least a hundred now in the queue. And if I'm adding travel stories into the mix, even more!

  5. 500!? Half a milennium!

    Keep 'em coming - I'm loving them: food and stories. All yummy.

  6. Congrats on the 500th. You're a machine!

  7. Oanh,
    Yup. Although saying half a millennium makes it sound older!

    But machines get tired and break down too!


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