Angkor Thom

Angkor was not built in one day, rather it was built over a stretch of three centuries and the Angkor archeological sites are a testament to this tremendous dedication of the Khmer Empire. In order to protect the legacy of a remarkable civilization, the ruins of Angkor have been considered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Angkor is a few minutes away from Dyna Boutique Hotel. One can reach it by riding a tuktuk, a bike or a car or by walking (and drinking a lot of water while at it). Once inside the premises, photos are taken and an identification card is given to each visitor. The ID looks cool, with a picture of Angkor Wat at the top, the dates of entry and expiry, the visitor’s picture at the bottom (I have my mouth open on mine because I was talking when they took my photo. Hahaha). These ID’s are checked every time one enters a particular place in Angkor. A one-day pass costs $20.00, which is really inexpensive considering the trove of treasure within the 400km2area. Of course, it is humanly impossible to visit the whole area in one day, or even a week, so we choose to explore the most popular sites.

South Gate

We start with the South Gate, which the best-preserved entrance to the Angkor Thom, the capital of King Jayavarman VII’s empire. The causeway is around fifty meters, which is built over a picturesque moat, and is flanked by stone figures of devas (gods) and asuras (demons). The juxtaposition between good and evil is interesting, but I notice that the evil side is in better condition than its counterpart.

The causeway leading to the South Gate
On the right side of the causeway
The left side shows some of the stone figures that adorn the causeway
The man-made lake that is ever-present all throughout Angkor

After several stops to take photos of the stone figures and of the man-made lake, we proceed to the stone gate. The stone gate looks formidable with its 23-meter four faces, which makes it all seeing.

Three of the four faces of the stone gate

We are not contented with what we see on the ground so we climb the mound of soil and roots at the side of the stone gate to see the surrounding from another angle. The view from the top does not disappoint as it offers us a 360°perspective of the scene below.

View from one of the heads of the tower
Up close and personal with one of the faces of the stone tower

  Bayon Temple

A short walk away from the gate is Bayon, the centerpiece of Angkor Thom. Bayon is located in the exact center of the 9km2 area of Angkor Thom and it served as a Khmer temple during King Jayavarman VII’s reign. Bayon boasts of more than 200 gigantic faces that tower over the visitors. The walls of Bayon are filled with bas-relief that show daily life activities and march to war. The latter shows fierce soldiers holding their weapon, with the provisions behind them, the animals that carry the provisions and the cooks and other helpers that aid the soldiers in battle. It is very detailed and well preserved. Aside from these, the temple also features nagas or reptile-like creatures, some of which have seven heads while others have 11, and the beautiful apsara, the female figure that shows some dance movements.

Just one of more than 200 giant faces found in Bayon
With one of the faces that looks like King Jayavarman VII
Bas-relief of soldiers going to war and the animals and people that help the soldiers survive the war

A naga with 11 heads, Zuma has nothing on her

Apsara in all her beauty and grace

The interiors of Bayon are a little cramped, but the huge windows of the outer parts lend it a certain illusion of space. There are enterprising people inside Bayon that encourage visitors to light some incense and receive bands in exchange of money. This practice is frowned upon, but it does not stop the tourists from participating in it. Aside from this, there are several locals dressed in traditional garb that allow tourists to have their photos taken with them for a minimal amount of money. Since Virg and I are too cheap to pay for that, we take photos from afar.

Intricate design of the interiors of Bayon

Interiors of Bayon
Locals in Khmer clothes
Taking a break from walking around Bayon


We take a short break and drink a lot of water to rehydrate ourselves then we proceed to Baphoun. Baphoun is situated northwest of Bayon and at its highest point, it stands at 50 meters. It is a three-level temple that was constructed during the leadership of Udayadityavarman II and  it was dedicated to Shiva. It was built to imitate a mountain where the Shiva and other supreme beings are believed to reside.
A few meters away from the temple, we see some boys cooling themselves in one of the canals that runs through the area.

Boys just wanna have fun

Baphoun is impressive even at a distance. It has stairs that seem to be endless and construction that paid attention to every detail. I have a teeny-weeny fear of stairs, especially steep ones, but I decide to reach the top level even if I have to do it very slowly.

Baphoun and its stairs
View of the ground after the first flight of stairs
View of the topmost part of Baphoun from the first floor
View at the top of the second flight of stairs
View from the top of Baphoun! Yes!
Another view from the top of Baphoun
The beautiful columns at the top floor of Baphoun
The highest point of Baphoun

The great Isaac Newton said that, “what goes up must come down”, and great minds are rarely wrong. Climbing down the stairs on the right side of Baphoun is harder (I did not see that coming) because I have to face the stairs while doing it with the camera dangling from my neck and my bag hitting my side and leg in alternating pattern. After five excruciating minutes, I set foot on the first floor and everything is smooth sailing from there. 

We rest for a while under the canopy of trees near Baphoun, wipe the sweat off our faces and other body parts, drink more water and talk about the slabs that constitute Baphoun.

Terrace of Elephants

Then we walk to Terrace of Elephants. It is a 350-meter structure located in the Royal Square of Angkor Thom. The Terrace of Elephants served as a stage for welcoming the (hopefully) triumphant army and for public gathering headed by King Jayavarman VII. It faces an open field and has a commanding view of vast greenery.

Terrace of Elephants-where pomp and circumstance happened

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