Monday, April 7, 2014

Angkor: Angkor Thom

Long time, no post... I know!  

Back to the sights and stories of Angkor Archaeological Park, starting with Angkor Thom!

Angkor Thom means "Great City" in Khmer.  It is a walled city built by King Jayavarman VII in the 12th century and it was the last capital of the Khmer empire.

Leading up to the city's walls you cross over a large moat:

 

The moat crossings are over causeways flanked by these statues of giant demons and gods holding the body of a Naga (great mythological snake creatures), engaged in a sort of tug-of-war:


After crossing the bridge you enter through one of the 4 city gates (one for each cardinal direction)... each gate is 23 m high and has 4 large, carved faces, one facing in each direction:



Here, from the vantage point on top of the city wall, you can see one of the gate's faces straight on and the profiles of two others:


The base of the gate is built to look like a three-headed elephant:


The three elephant trunks:


Once inside the city, we headed over to the Terrace of the Elephants (although somehow I have no photos of said elephants), a large platform used for royal audiences and as a spot from which the king could view his army:


Then we headed to check out some of Angkor Thom's temples.  First up: Baphuon (at least I am pretty sure the photos below are all Baphuon... honestly, we saw a lot of temples this day!)

Baphuon is a three-tiered temple originally built in the 11th century, dedicated to the Hindu god, Shiva.  Lots more on it here if you're interested!


We opted to make the (steep, sweat-inducing) climb to the top of the temple:



One side of Baphuon has been covered by a giant, 70 meter long, reclining Buddha added after the fact when the temple was converted to be a Buddhist temple in the 15th century.  You can just make out Buddha's face below:


Baphuon was pretty cool viewed from across the reflecting ponds:


Up next: Bayon, Angkor Thom's coolest looking temple, deserving of its own post!

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