Posted by: travelrat | January 21, 2020

Angkor Thom

Angkor Thom 3

Siem Riep: 11th November 2019

Why, I asked, is Angkor Wat claimed as the largest religious structure in the world, when nearby Angkor Thom is much bigger? The guide explained … Angkor Wat is a temple; Angkor Thom was a city. The name means ‘Great City’; Angkor Wat means ‘City Temple’.

Eighty years after Angkor Wat was completed, King Jayavarman VII ordered the building of the city, which was to become the capital of the Khmer Empire. We can get a pretty fair idea of what it looked like in its heyday, because, in the 13th Century, a visiting Chinese diplomat named Cho Dou Guan (an approximation; I’ve been unable to find his name written down anywhere) wrote a graphic description, which enable the Smithsonian Institute to produce computer-generated images of what the city may have looked like.

What remains is still impressive. The ruins cover 10 square kilometres, is surrounded by an 8 metre high stone wall, and a defensive moat 100 metres wide. Later, after our visit, we took a short boat trip on the moat to see the sunset.

Sunset at Angkor Thom


You enter the city across a bridge, with heads of the Buddha at intervals along the parapet. And here, I made a mistake. I should have photographed a sign or something at the entrance. Without it, I have no real means of telling where the pictures of Angkor Wat end, and those of Angkor Thom begin.

Angkor Thom 2

However, when you get to the ruins of the temple of Bayon, in the centre of the city, the many gigantic carved faces in the towers leave you in no doubt where you are.

Angkor Thom 1

So, that’s two sites down, and one to go. Which is rather a pity, because a whole day could be … indeed, ought to be … devoted to an exploration of each. But, as Cecil Rhodes once said:

‘So much to do; so little time!’

June 2020: I found an article in a back number of National Geographic Magazine The Chinese diplomat who wrote the description in the 13th Century was Zhou Daguan.

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