Angkor’s most famous monument, the Angkor Wat is a very large and impressive temple built some 900 years ago at the height of skill of Khmer builders. Built as a Hindu monument, later turned into a Buddhist temple, the temple is a representation of Mount Meru, its five towers representing the mountain peaks and the moats representing the oceans surrounding the mountain. After passing a 190 meter wide moat, a 350 meter long processional walkway leads towards the temple providing great views of the well preserved temple. The top consists of a platform with five massive towers shaped like a lotus bud. The temple is one of the best spots in the Angkor Archaeological Park to watch the sunrise, although it can get very crowded. A source of pride for the people of Cambodia, the temple is shown on the Cambodian national flag.
The Bayon is a large temple in the center of Angkor Thom, the capital of the Khmer empire. It is best known for the large number of massive mysterious faces sculpted on the towers, looking into all four directions. The faces are believed to represent Lokeshvara, the Bodhisattva of compassion. The Bayon is a large temple with lots of structures confined in a relatively small space, giving it a cluttered feel. Its design is complicated due to the many alterations that have been carried out. Two concentric galleries are decorated with a large number of bas reliefs showing battle scenes, religious scenes as well as scenes of daily life in Angkor at the end of the 12th century.
One of the oldest Angkor temples built around the year 900, the Phnom Bakheng is a mountain temple with five towers built to represent Mount Meru, the center of the universe in Buddhist and Hindu cosmology. The five stepped pyramid was built with 109 sanctuary towers by King Yasovarman I, known as the “Leper King” in his capital Yasodharapura. The temple is one of the best places to watch the sunset. Quite a bit of climbing is involved and since it can get crowded you will have to arrive early to get the best views.
Not a temple, but definitely one of the best places to see in the Angkor Archaeological zone is Angkor Thom. Meaning “great city”, Angkor Thom is a large city built by King Jayavarman VII at the end of the 12th century to be the new capital of the Khmer empire after the Chams destroyed the old capital Yasodharapura. Surrounded by huge walls with massive entrance gopuras with face towers and a 100 meter wide moat, the city was well protected against invaders. At the city’s center is the Bayon temple. Just North of it was the King’s Royal Palace of which nothing remains today, since it was built from wood that has long gone. The King’s private temple, the Phimeanakas was inside the Palace enclosure. The Eastern boundary of the Palace grounds are formed by the Royal terraces, the Elephants terrace and the Leper King terrace, that both contain wonderful sculptures.
One of the most photogenic places in Angkor, the Ta Prohm is a temple intentionally left in much the same state it was discovered. The huge trees and massive roots growing out of the temples’ walls create a special atmosphere and a feel of being right in the jungle. The temple known from the movie “the Tomb Raider” will also be enjoyed by children, who can feel like Indiana Jones exploring the site. To prevent collapse, some trees have recently been removed. The temple is one of the more popular places to watch the sunset.