Angkor Thom - Exploring Cambodia's Giant Lost-City

By Mabel Collins

Cambodia is a wonderful country to visit, with Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, and the city of Phnom Penh as the three primary attractions. In addition, Cambodia has lesser-known tropical island paradises worth exploring and is welcoming to international travelers. 

Angkor Thom is, without a doubt, the biggest attraction in Cambodia, a Southeast Asian country. It is the world's biggest temple complex and has inspired several stories about hidden civilizations in the woods. For many, seeing the jungle's lost temple city of Angkor Thom is more impressive than viewing the Great Pyramids of Giza and the sands of time. 

If you intend to visit Cambodia, try to take a ride around the Angkor Thom temple to explore the ancient beauty of this architecture. Keep reading to dive deeper into the history as well as travel information about Angkor Thom!

Traveling to Angkor Thom, Cambodia

Traveling to Angkor Thom, Cambodia

Look At The Angkor Thom History

What is Angkor Thom?

Angkor Thom, which means "Great City," is a 12th-century temple complex located in the heart of the ancient city of Angkor in Cambodia. Built by King Jayavarman VII - one of the most significant historical Khmer kings, Angkor Thom is considered the capital of the Khmer Empire from the late 12th to the early 13th centuries. The temple complex covers an area of 9 square kilometers and is surrounded by a 12-kilometer-long wall, which was once the largest in the world.

Although Angkor Thom in Cambodia is one of the most visited destinations in this country, the fact that this temple was abandoned in the 15th century and remained hidden in the jungle for centuries. Until the late 19th century, the temple complex was rediscovered by French archaeologist Henri Mouhot, who brought Angkor Thom to the attention of the world.

From the Angkor Thom aerial view

The Angkor Thom is a masterpiece of Khmer architecture and engineering. This temple complex is composed of several temples, palaces, and other structures, including the famous Bayon temple, which features over 200 giant stone faces carved into its towers. 

There are five gates of Angkor Thom, each of which is topped by a giant stone head of the Hindu god Vishnu. The gates are oriented towards the cardinal points of the compass, with the South Gate being the most famous and well-preserved. The South Gate is flanked by sculptures of demons and gods grasping a colossal snake, depicting the churning of the ocean of milk in Hindu mythology.

Once inside the temple complex, visitors are greeted by the stunning Bayon temple, which is located at the center of Angkor Thom. The temple features over 200 giant stone faces carved into its towers, each one depicting the serene and smiling face of the Buddhist bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. The faces are believed to represent the king himself and are thought to have been modeled after his own likeness.

The Angkor Thom Bayon temple was built in the late 12th century, and its architecture is a testament to the skill of the Khmer builders. The temple is composed of several levels, each of which is decorated with intricate carvings and bas-reliefs. The lower levels depict scenes from everyday life in the Khmer Empire, while the upper levels feature religious and mythological scenes.

The overview of Angkor Thom

The overview of Angkor Thom 

There are other features that attract a lot of tourists: the Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King. Both locations are situated in the northern part of Angkor Thom city, which held some significant ceremonies for the public and royals. Especially the Terrace of the Leper King - decorated with intricate carvings of demons and other mythological creatures, as well as a statue of the leper king himself, is where the royal family holds the royal crematorium.  

Why was Angkor Thom so significant?

Angkor Thom was the last and most enduring capital city of the Khmer Empire. The Khmer Empire was a powerful state that ruled over much of Southeast Asia between the 9th and 15th centuries. Angkor Thom was the final capital of the empire, and it served as a center of power and culture for over 400 years. As such, it represents the height of Khmer civilization and the enduring legacy of this once-great empire.

Besides, Angkor Thom is a religious center because it has many temples and shrines, which were dedicated to the Buddhist deity Avalokiteshvara. These temples played an important role in the Khmer heart, who came to them to pray and make offerings to the gods.

On top of that, in the past, building the Angkor Thom used a lot of resources and workforce due to the lack of modern equipment. As a result, the city's walls, moats, and temples were a testament to the Khmer people's wealth, power, and prestige, and they served as a visible symbol of the empire's power and influence. 

Angkor Thom and Angkor Wat difference

Angkor Thom and Angkor Wat are not the same. Angkor Thom and Angkor Wat are both part of the Angkor Archaeological Park in Cambodia, but they are separate temple complexes located about 1.7 miles (2.7 km) from each other. Angkor Wat is the largest and most famous temple complex in the park, while Angkor Thom is a smaller but still significant complex that includes the Bayon temple and other important structures.

Angkor Thom Travel Information For Travelers

Nowadays, Angkor Thom Cambodia is one of the most popular tourist destinations, attracting millions of travelers each year. The temple complex has been awarded a UNESCO World Heritage site, and efforts are put into preserving and restoring its many ancient structures. Let’s check some essential information about this place now! 

  • Where is Angkor Thom location?

Angkor Thom is located on the west bank of the Siem Reap River. It is located 9 kilometers north of Siem Reap's metropolitan town. Just drive north out on Charles de Gaulle till you reach the moat of Angkor Wat. Then turn left and follow the route around Angkor Wat until you reach the South Gate of Angkor Thom. 

Angkor Thom used to be the capital of the Khmer Empire

Angkor Thom used to be the capital of the Khmer Empire

  • Angkor Thom entrance fee & Angkor Thom opening hours

The Angkor Pass includes the Angkor Thom entrance charge. The Angkor Pass MUST be purchased at the Angkor Ticket Office (Angkor Enterprise), which is approximately 8 kilometers from Angkor Thom's South Gate and is open daily from 5 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. 

Tickets purchased elsewhere are ineligible. Visitors must present in person at the ticket office since their image will be put on their ticket to ensure that tickets are non-transferable. Because your ticket will be checked at any temple, keep it safe and easily accessible. Angkor Thom is accessible daily from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

  • Explore Angkor Thom at your convenience

If crowds bother you, it is strongly advised that you schedule a private tour with local tour guides who will take you on a separate touring itinerary. Angkor Thom is best visited for half a day to a full day, depending on your travel interests and physical health. The complex is best visited by tuk-tuk or bike, which allows tourists to move comfortably for distances that are too far to walk but not too far to drive.

Traveling Advice To Angkor Thom Cambodia For Your Pockets

  • The entire Angkor Thom temple can be walked around. In some locations, you will find it hard when you scramble to get up and down, but a view around the wall is a beautiful way to view Angkor Thom City.

  • Angkor Thom is a large temple that requires a lot of energy to explore! Rehydrate with fresh coconuts sold outdoors by local eateries. 

  • When visiting Angkor Thom and other holy monuments inside the Angkor Complex, tourists must dress properly which covers your shoulders and knees.

  • It is likely to be hot in Angkor at any time of year, so pack a hat, umbrella, and appropriate footwear if you plan on doing a lot of walking and climbing during your visit.

Apply for a Cambodia e-visa now to have the ticket to fly to this mysterious country. Angkor Thom has more interesting things that might get your attention there. Check your eligibility and travel to Cambodia without difficulty, thanks to a modernized website - Cambodia Immigration Services. With the help of this article, we hope you get more information about Angkor Thom and have an enjoyable trip to Cambodia.

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