The Angkorian period spans from AD 802 to 1432. During this long period, a vast number of temples were built in the area around present-day Siem Reap. At its peak, the city of Angkor is believed to have had more than one million inhabitants. Today, only the sandstone temple ruins remain, since the normal houses were built of wood. The centrally located temples are spread over an area of more than 500 square kilometers, but there are many other Angkorian temples further away from Angkor (e.g. Beng Mealea).
We bought a three-day entrance pass to the central temples of Angkor. We spent our first day exploring the enormous temple city of Angkor Thom (Great Angkor), constructed during the 12th and 13th centuries. The city is surrounded by an eight meter high wall, and a 100 meter wide moat, 12 km long. There are five impressive gates, guarded by gods and demons. We managed to pass through the narrow gate with our car.
The highlight in Angkor Thom was the Bayon Temple. It is located in the very center, and it was built in a different style compared to the other temples in the area. The temple has three levels and is crowned by 54 towers, each with four enormous faces, carved from the stone blocks, glazing enigmatically into the distance.
Children and adults were equally thrilled with Bayon and we did not want to leave, despite the scorching sun.
On the outer wall of the lower level, there are fantastic bas-reliefs, 1.2 km long, depicting life in Angkor during the 12th century.
Other favorites in Angkor Thom included:
The 350m-long Terrace of Elephants.
The hundreds of apsara sculptures on the Terrace of the Leper King.
The elevated walkway to the Baphuon Temple.
The beautiful Kleang structures, between which line dancers once entertained the Angkor kings.
The Preah Khan Temple, with its narrow vaults, beautiful sculptures and Hindu symbols.