- Lao Tzu
Angkor Thom in Cambodia was the capital city of Jayavarman VII's empire, and the centre of his massive building programme - one inscription found in the city refers to Jayavarman as the groom, and the city as his bride. 1km north of Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom City is a walled enclosure full of partially ruined temples and forest - from the iconic Bayon, to little known gems, such as Preah Palilay. Angkor Thom highlights include walking along the high laterite stone walls that enclose the city or seeing the late afternoon sun striking the faces of Jayavarman VII that adorn the towers of the Bayon.
Angkor Thom is around 8km (10-15 mins by car, 20-25 by tuk-tuk) from Siem Reap. To get an idea see our Angkor Thom Map. You can visit Angkor Thom at any time of day. An expert local tour guide from Siem Reap will ensure you get the very best from your visit here, as the city is a large area, with the Angkor temples, gates and sights scattered through the forested areas.
Angkor Thom was indeed a Great City, and was built by the great Jayavarman VII to commemorate his victory over the Cham in 1181. It would have been larger than any European city of the time, and may have housed as many as one million people. The temple of Baphuon for example was described by Zhou Daguan, at the end of the 13th century, as a "truely astonishing spectacle", a Tower of Bronze higher than the Tower of Gold that was Bayon. Much of the palaces that he saw were made of wood, and destroyed by the Siamese invasion of 1432. The city was abandoned by the 17th century.
"Angkor Thom is undeniably an expression of the highest genius. It is, in three dimensions and on a scale worthy of an entire nation, the materialization of Buddhist cosmology, representing the ideas that only great painters would dare to portray... Angkor Thom is not an architectural "miracle"...It is in reality the world of the gods springing up from the heart of ancient Cambodia..."
"Instead of following crowds to the South Gate, visit Angkor Thom through the Victory gate, climb up, and walk along the high, partially overgrown laterite walls to the Death Gate. This is a peaceful, shaded walk alongside the moat - a perfect pause before venturing to the center of the city."
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