Angkor ThomAngkor Thom was built in northwest Cambodia around 1170 A.D. It was constructed out of sandstone and laterite, a hard iron and aluminum stone. It was decreed by Jayavarman VII to serve as the capital city of the empire. It contains many temples, a wall surrounding the square over a mile on each side, several gates, artistic renditions and the royal palace. It is thought to have been active for 500 years.
The ArrivalLucky, my driver, dropped me off at the main southern bridge entering the complex. The balustrades are capped with demons and ended with nagas. It crosses the very large, hand dug moat that surrounds this city. After taking some pictures, drivers typically have already driven inside, and you can walk across the bridge and through the narrow gate, which is pretty hairy given the amount of traffic going through the narrow entrance.
Bayon TempleI was picked up by my driver and brought to the dead center of the city. This is the Bayon temple, or Faces temple. Made famous by the Tomb Raider movie as one of the points of entry to the hidden tomb and where part of the triangle was concealed. This is a complete fantasy, as the temples could never have such a room inside of them without collapsing since they are stacked, not arched, and the Khmer empire was almost entirely a cremation society, resulting in very few tombs.
The Bayon is in pretty rough shape. A lot of the outer hallways and walls have collapsed, and the more central areas are settling in different directions, causing separation of stones. While stabilization is under way, it's going to be a long hard process for the thousands of tons of stone blocks and it is sitting on a foundation of basically mud. The primary features, the faces, are generally intact and in good shape, as is the central spire.
It is a narrow, and at times, somewhat confusing temple for what is open and still navigable. The signs are helpful, and there are plenty of locals willing to help you around for a modest donation. I believe it is one of the most beautiful temples in Cambodia though.
BaphuonThis is another three tiered mountain style temple, much like Angkor Wat, but smaller. This one dedicated to Shiva around 1150 A.D., then later converted to Bhuddism, and partially dismantled to build a Bhuddah that is prominent in the site. Over the years, it fell into sad shape and was being restored by a full deconstruction and reconstruction. This was interrupted by the Khmer Rouge during the civil war, and 51 years after the work started, the temple was finally put back together.
Elephant Wall and Preah Ponlea Sdach KomlongThe Terrace of Elephants, or the Elephant Wall, is a 1100 foot long viewing and presentation platform where the king could review his troops or give proclamations to large crowds.
Preah Ponlea Sdach Komlong is a gallery of statuettes 20 feet high, repeating persons and nagas. The base structure that supported these degraded and had to be rebuilt, and many of these pieces have been looted over the years as they are almost perfect mantle sized carvings.