Thursday, July 25, 2024

Angkor Archeological Park

Angkor Thom

Explore the heart of the Khmer ancestral empire

     Angkor Thom is the largest city center of Angkor whose name means “Great City” spans 900 hectares. It was the center Capital of the Khmer Empire since the late 12th century, founded by the famous King Jayavarman VII. The city is surrounded by a wall and a wide moat. Five monumental gates allow entry into it. Within are several temples (notably the Bayon at its center, and the Baphuon) as well as the Royal Palace.


     After his coronation in 1182 AD, King Jayavarman VII fortified his capital city of Angkor Thom with high laterite twelve-kilometer walls, pierced by five imposing gates, known as ANGKOR THOM GATES. There is one gate at each cardinal direction except the East which has two. Four-faced structure on the top, the celestial three-headed elephant, image of a standing Lokeshvara on the pediments on each side of the gates and two rows of stone gods and demons holding a snake on each side of the causeway make the scene breathtaking.

Traders, visiting dignitaries and enemies alike would have been impressed by the mighty 8m (26ft) high laterite walls backing a wide moat that surrounds the square-shaped city for over 12km (7.5mi). Angkor Thom, meaning “Great City”, was clearly an important seat of power but in fact, the conurbation sprawled far beyond the walled city we see now to make up the largest preindustrial settlement in the world.

Decades of painstaking field research spearheaded by academics of the EFEO have allowed us to visualise the complex infrastructure that defined greater Angkor in its heyday. More recently Lidar aerial scanning has allowed us to peer through the thick forest cover to see the dense network of buildings, roads and canals occupying almost the entire free area of the walled city except for the Royal Enclosure and the parade ground in front of the Elephant Terrace. The urbanised area continued out past the city walls to the shore of the East Baray and beyond.

     Much of the plan of the walled city we see today was established under Cambodia’s most renowned leader, King Jayavarman VII following his decisive turning of the defeat by the Chams (1177) into victory shortly thereafter. Angkor Thom was designed as the capital of an Empire that would dominate mainland Southeast Asia from at least as early as the end of the 12th century until the ascendancy of the Siamese to the west (in what is now Thailand) in the 15th century. The city was accessed by five impressive gates and causeways across the moat; four at the cardinal points plus the Victory Gate to the northeast. This extra gate spanned a pre-existing roadway between the Royal Palace and the cruciform terrace overlooking the East Baray.

The Chinese emissary Zhou Daguan, who visited Angkor at the end of the 13th century, describes the houses of the elite as being large and spacious, with carved walls and painted images of the Buddha. Buildings of the royal enclosure had tiles made of lead or yellow clay however fewer wealthy owners roofed their homes with thatch. All housing was constructed in wood and has all succumbed to the tropical conditions and especially the recycling efforts of termites.

The South Gate is the best preserved and also the busiest by far due to the tourist traffic between Angkor Wat and Bayon. It is well worth taking the time to climb up onto the wall and walk a little away from the gate to appreciate the view of the causeway. If you have more time, consider hiring a bicycle and riding around a section of the walls.

As you approach the 23m (75ft) high gate, you cross causeway flanked on either side by 54 gods (devas) and 54 demons (asuras) pulling on a giant snake in a representation of the scene from the Hindu myth of the Churning of the Ocean of Milk.

In this legend the gods and demons cooperate to create the nectar of life (amrita) that would render them immortal.

Using Mount Mandara as a pivot and the serpent (naga) Vasuki as the cord they churned until the mountain was on the verge of crashing into the sea. To help them, Vishnu, incarnated as the tortoise Kurma, bore the mountain on his back and recovered the amrita for the gods who, once rejuvenated, finally defeated the demons.

Discover all the current projects happening in angkor Thom

Info and tips for visitor

Date :

12th century



Opening hours

7:30 am to 5:30 pm


Jayavarman VII




Between 2 to 3 hours.

Click to take a tour of the photo gallery of agkor thom

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