Angkor Thom, the Great City • Cambodia

Embark on a captivating 7-minute journey through the heart of Cambodia's spiritual landscape with "Angkor Thom, the Great City • Cambodia." Explore the majestic South Gate, the serene Bayon Temple with its iconic smiling faces, and the towering Baphuon Temple. This informative video unveils the architectural marvels and rich history of Angkor Thom, offering insights into its enduring legacy. Delve into a world where art, history, and spirituality converge, all richly narrated and available for deeper exploration on our page.
00:00 • intro | 00:29 • South gate | 01:00 • Bayon temple | 03:05 • Baphuon temple | 04:31 • Phimeanakas temple | 05:34 • terraces of the leper king and elephants

made with photos and videos taken during the trip Vietnam & Cambodia • 2014

Wars between the Khmer Empire and Champa 


The history of the Khmer empire is punctuated by a succession of periods of prosperity and incessant wars with its neighbors in Champa. The Cham and the Khmers fought over the Indochinese peninsula between the 10th and 13th centuries. 

One of the important battles during this period was the Cham invasion and destruction of the Khmer capital Yasodharapura (another name for Angkor). The Khmer king Tribhuvnandityavarman was killed by the Cham. The Khmer Empire was on the brink of collapse when King Jayavarman VII gathered an army to drive out the invaders. This army was powerful and won decisive victories, driving out the Cham and ushering in an unprecedented period of prosperity for the Khmer Empire. 


Angkor Thom 


Jayavarman VII decided to rebuild the capital and created Angkor Thom (the Great City) in the 12th century. Jayavarman VII was a Buddhist emperor and a great builder. Although the king was a Buddhist himself, the Khmer culture and constructions result from a successful synthesis between Buddhism and Hinduism. 

The royal city of Angkor Thom is built in the shape of a square of 3 kilometers on each side, entirely surrounded by a rampart 8 meters high and moats. Jayavarman had learned the lesson of the destruction of the ancient capital many years before. 

Five gates give access to the city. Among these, at the 4 cardinal points, a monumental door decorated with huge king's faces allowed to enter the city. 

The five monumental gates that lead to Angkor Thom are known as the Gates of Victory, Death, East, West and South. The doors are adorned with statues of deities and mythical animals such as lions, elephants and garudas. 


Monuments of Angkor Thom 


The main landmarks of the city are the Royal Palace, Baphuon Temple and Bayon Temple. Some buildings were already present during the construction of the new city, such as the Baphuon temple, a temple dedicated to Shiva and built in the middle of the 11th century and a large part of the other buildings that make up the royal palace. 




The Bayon was built by Jayavarman VII, as were the more modest temples of Ta Prohm and Preah Khan. Unlike the latter, the Bayon is a temple-mountain. The notion of temple-mountain is important in Khmer architecture. This is a temple built on top of a multi-tiered pyramid that was believed to represent Mount Meru in India (Mount Meru, home of the gods, was probably present-day Mount Kaylash). This notion of a sacred mountain where the gods live is common to Hinduism and Buddhism. Bayon Temple is famous for its monumental towers adorned with more than 200 smiling faces carved in stone. 


The Royal Palace 


The royal palace consisted of a set of buildings, palaces and temples as well as administrative buildings. 

Among the temples of the enclosure of the royal palace, let us quote Phimeanakas, pyramidal temple also named Celestial Palace. 

Terraces overlooked the Place Royale. These terraces are the Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King. 

Baphuon Temple is also part of the Royal Palace compound. It is a huge temple-mountain with a gigantic reclining Buddha. 


The ponds 


The basins of Angkor Thom, such as the Victory Basin and the Leprous Basin, are examples of the sophisticated hydraulic engineering of the Khmer civilization. The basins are decorated with sculptures and reliefs representing mythical animals and religious figures. 


Some ruined temples 


Angkor Thom is also famous for its ruined temples, such as Baphuon Temple and Phimeanakas Temple, which are examples of intricate and ornate Khmer architecture.


Angkor Thom, Cambodia, Angkor • Cambodia

What's the weather like in Angkor?

about the place, Angkor:

Angkor, located in northwest Cambodia, is one of Southeast Asia's most significant archaeological sites. Covering over 400 square kilometers, this monumental complex was the center of the Khmer Empire from the 9th to the 15th centuries. The temples of Angkor, including the famed Angkor Wat, are masterpieces of Khmer architecture adorned with detailed bas-reliefs depicting mythological and historical scenes. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Angkor not only showcases architectural brilliance but also profound spiritual and cultural significance.


Spoken comments in the film: 

Angkor Thom, which means The Great City of Angkor was founded by King Jayavarman VII after the destruction of the ancient Khmer capital by Cham armies in the 12th century. This royal city covers 9 square kilometers and is surrounded by ramparts 8 meters high. Four main gates allow entry into the city. 

On the bridge crossing the moat of the South Gate, two rows of giants carry a naga, the sacred serpent of Hinduism. 

Above the gate, four heads of benevolent Buddhas watch over the entrance to the city.


The significance of the many smiling heads that adorn the Bayon Temple is not known with certainty. Some researchers suggest the hypothesis that it is the head of Brahma, creator of the universe and others think it is Buddha. When we know the proximity of Hinduism and Buddhism in the Khmer kingdom, it may well be that both hypotheses are valid. 

But beyond these giant heads, the temple of Bayon houses many bas-reliefs depicting historical scenes and everyday life.


Located within the walls of Angkor Thom, the Baphuon Temple is slightly older. Built around the middle of the 11th century, the Baphuon was a temple dedicated to Shiva. It is a temple-mountain, typical of Khmer architecture. A temple supposed to represent Mount Meru, celestial residence of the gods according to Hindu beliefs, partially taken over by Buddhists. 

This temple suffered greatly from the onslaught of time, and its restoration, which lasted nearly a century, is a real feat.


A walk on the north side of the temple reveals a surprising statue of a reclining Buddha almost 75 meters long, making it one of the tallest in the world. Surprising because this temple is dedicated to Shiva. It would seem that this huge Buddha was added around the 16th century, probably to help consolidate the temple which was beginning to show worrying cracks.


King Jayavarman VII had two terraces built as an extension of the royal palace so as to be able to dominate the square of Angkor Thom which extended in front of the palace. One of them bears the name of Terrace of the Leper King and the other Terrace of the Elephants. The terrace of the Leper King owes its name to a statue which is missing several fingers. Could this be a reference to Yasovarman 1st, king of the beginning of the 9th century, who would have been affected by the terrible disease?

Baphuon Temple, Angkor • Cambodia

Baphuon Temple

Phimeanakas Temple, Angkor • Cambodia

Phimeanakas Temple

Elephants terrace, Angkor • Cambodia

Elephants terrace

Bayon temple, Angkor • Cambodia

Bayon temple

Angkor, Cambodja

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