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Angkor Thom and Bayon by Asienreisender

Posted in Latest of Asienreisender, Sights with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 14, 2013 by Thim Kwai

The first half of the 13th century might mark the zenith of the Angkorean empire. The capital of Angkor with the new centerpiece Angkor Thom reached a size bigger than all the European cities of the time, including London, Paris and even Rome. One has to mention here (again) that Angkor was still much bigger than the inner core, Angkor Thom, which was reserved for the king, the high priests, the new state temple (the Bayon) and for great representative events on the ‘Victory Road’ near the Terrace of the Elephants. Around this centerpiece the mass of Angkor’s population lived, the peasants, the craftsmen, more priests and the majority of the men who formed the army. Most of these people lived in the typical Southeast Asian shacks and stilt huts of the simple people, built of wood and bamboo, with grass or leaves forming the roofs. These buildings weren’t sustainable and therefore disappeared traceless over the time, eaten up by the tropical nature.

Representative Angkor Thom therefore was (and is) an area of three kilometers in both length and width. It’s four sides are aligned to the points of the compass. It was surrounded by an eight meters high wall made of laterite stone, of which was outside a 100 meters wide water trench digged out. At the inner side of the wall soil was accumulated to enforce the walls and enable soldiers from inside to reach the top of the walls. It’s still possible to climb up to the top of the wall and walk along on it.

Inside there is a road net, which is connected to the outer area by five city gates. Basically there are two roads crossing the area and meeting in the center point, at the Bayon’s position. From the Bayon these roads lead into the four compass directions to four of the gates. A fifth gate is placed north of the east gate. It’s called the ‘Victory Gate’ and it’s road, the ‘Victory Road’, is leading straight to the royal palace. Best known is Angkor Thom’s south gate, the one which leads to the road to nearby Angkor Wat (just 1,700m away).

The gates of the city wall are all very representative and show a giant head with four faces showing in all directions on the top of a towerlike construction (called ‘gopuram’). Their height is 22m, the gate opening is 7m high and 3.50m wide, and therefore high enough to move through it on the back of an elephant. The city gates are made of sandstone and can cope in their quality with the ancient buildings of the old greek. In their original state they have been probably equipped with two heavy wooden doors and a massive bar to close the doors from inside.

When approaching one of the gates from outside, one has to cross a wide naga bridge, which leads over the outer moat. On the right and left sides of the bridges are 54 gods and daemons placed, who carry two nagas.

The most important state buildings were concentrated inside the city walls of Angkor Thom. In the northwestern part was the king’s palace, together with a temple pyramide called Phimeanakas. This construction was then extended by the Terrace of the Elephants, the Terrace of the Leprosy King and the great (victory) square, alltogether a great areal for military parades or presenting great representative games and shows.

Also remarkable are the mountainlike temple Baphuon and the two buildigs called northern and southern Khleang, who were kind of halls. Opposite to the Terrace of the Elephants are two ponds and twelve towers called Prasat Suor Prat. In the geometical center of the whole square-shaped arrangement of Angkor Thom is the famous and most outstanding Bayon placed.

Besides, ancient Angkor was famous for it’s sophisticated canal system. A number of canals led through Angkor Thom. They partially served as a transport system, partially they were used as a freshwater source, as well as a bathroom and, not to forget, for wastewater disposal. The water flowed from the northeast to the southwest, drained eventually to the western baray (a rectangle-shaped, artificial lake) outside Angkor Thom. Probably the water was taken out of the Siem Reap River, using the natural gradient of the land towards the Tonle Sap Lake.


This is only a part of the richly illustrated article ‘Angkor Thom’. Read here the whole article on Angkor Thom.

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