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Although Angkor Thom is not as well known as Angkor Wat, it is every bit as epic. Angkor Thom (translated as the “Great City”) was built in the late twelfth century by King Jayavarman VII as the capital city of the Khmer empire. It is a walled city with a surrounding moat.

There are four gates into Angkor Thom with the most scenic gate being the South Gate. The road leading to the South Gate is lined with many different sculptures – all with different expressions on their faces and in varying states of repair. Each gate is then crowned with four faces.

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The most scenic part of Angkor Thom is Bayon, which is a Buddhist temple containing 37 standing towers with most having carved faces in each direction. It is disputed whether the faces represent Loksvara, Mahayana Buddhism’s compassionate Bodhisattva, or whether they are a combination of Buddha and king Jayavarman VII. Even though the lighting was poor and the place was swarming with Chinese tourists, it was still amazing to behold those many, many faces looking down upon us.

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I actually think the faces look a little bit like Mr. Selfish’s face. He didn’t appreciate the comparison.


After Bayon, we went to Baphuon temple, which was built in the mid-11th century and is dedicated to the Hindu god of Shiva. In the 1960’s, the temple was taken apart with detailed maps and plans of how to put it back together. Unfortunately, the Khmer Rouge came into power and apparently destroyed all of the papers. As a result, the temple is still in disrepair today and the French government is currently leading the restoration efforts.

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Then, the sun started to come out, and it got very hot. Mr. Selfish and I breezed through the remaining parts of Angkor Thom. While I took photos from below, Mr. Selfish climbed Phimeanakas, which is the tallest scalable structure in Angkor Thom. The legend behind Phimeanakas is that a serpent lived in the golden tower which would transform into a woman every night and that if the king of Angkor didn’t make love to that woman every night, disaster would befall the kingdom. Luckily, Mr. Selfish didn’t encounter any serpents in the tower.

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Finally, we walked through the Royal Palace compound, which is close to the Terrace of the Elephants. The Royal Palace does not remain but there were tons of elephants.

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In my next post, I’ll go over some of our antics in downtown Siem Reap, which is about a 15 minute tuk tuk ride from the Angkor Archeological Park, which is where most of the temples and wats are based.