Angkor Thom – The Ancient Capital
Part 2 of 2 on my adventures through the ancient temples of Angkor!
Please see part 1 for tour options and my visit to Angkor Wat.
Of the 1200 plus temples of Angkor, the largest grouping of structures is located at Angkor Thom. It’s huge! It took me 4 hours to walk the 3km course through the temples and monuments. An hour or more may have been wasted because i got lost and was completely exhausted, but that’s due to the grandeur of Angkor Thom!
The first stop is Bayon Temple with its 54 stone towers inscribed with over 173 different faces, it was the state building of king Jayavarman VII. The temple was built from the inside out, there is a giant stone Buddha in the centre of the temple which was built up around it in the late 12th century.
Second is Baphuon temple, erected in the mid 11th century as a state temple features three levels and a massive raised stone roads leading to the front gate. The structure was dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva.
Third is Phimeanakas, a hindu temple built at the end of the 10th century, is the site of a ancient legend: The king must spend the first watch of every night with a woman representing a p ‘Naga’, owner of all land, or risk having his empire fall into chaos.
Finally there is the Mangalartha Temple: The last temple accurately dated in Angkor Thom, built on 1295 by the order of King Sayavarman VIII.
A little History
King Jayavarman VII, who took back the ancient capital from the Champa. roughly 80 years after the reign of his predecessor King Jayavarman VII, was the first influential King who practiced Buddhism. It is believed that his Buddhist values were the primary reason for the emphasis given to improving the well-being of his people; he was a leader responsible for his people and his kingdom instead of a ruler above them like his Hindu predecessors. This might explain why during the reign of King Jayavarman VII, he built public infrastructure rather than private palaces.
My favourite spot in Angkor is the bridge on which I watched the sun set over the moat. I also loved some of the old smaller temples that are scattered throughout the countryside and overgrown with trees.
The Town of Siem Reap
Besides my smelly street, the town of Siem Reap is really fun and actually quite small for being the hub of the country’s largest tourism attraction. During the day, the old market is the place to be! With shops, restaurants, fruit and vegetable stands and $1 smoothies, there is something for everyone. For my new friend Sophie and I, it was all about the exotic smoothies! Yum!
The restaurants served good food between $1.50 and $3 USD and more importantly draft beer specials for $0.50 and $2 cocktails. Just have a look!
At night, the focused drifted over to Pub Street where street stalls sold $2 cocktails and $5 buckets and clubs played music well into the night! There were even people overflowing into the street dancing and drinking, creating one giant party! Woohoo!