A 190m moat surrounds the majestic 12th century temple complex of Angkor Wat, the main attraction of Angkor Archaeological Park. Angkor Wat stands 65m high and was designed as a representation of Mount Meru, a sacred Hindu symbol, with three galleries placed on top of each other and shaped like rectangles.
Angkor Wat also contains four towers which combine to form a lotus flower shape, over 300 heavenly nymphs known as apsara adorning the temple, and a long wall of bas reliefs depicting various historic battles, legends, and other events.
Angkor Wat is a breathtaking sight at any time of day, but is most impressive of all during sunrise and the middle of the afternoon.
From a distance, the Bayon temple's 54 towers merely look like piles of stones. However, the closer visitors come to this temple in the middle of Angkor Thom, the better they will be able to see and appreciate the 216 faces carefully carved into Bayon's towers.
The first two of Bayon's three levels are rectangular, but the top level is round, and four faces have been carved into each of Bayon's 54 towers.
Bayon's bas reliefs are no less spectacular, cover a distance of over a kilometer, and depict over 11,000 figures. The inner gallery exhibits mythical legends and figures, while the outer gallery contains scenes of daily life during the era when Bayon was built.Baphuon
The Baphuon temple is another representation of the sacred Mount Meru, and is situated northwest of the Bayon temple. A giant reclining Buddha was added to the Baphuon's western face following the region's conversion to Buddhism during the 16th century, but its carving was never completed.
The three-tiered Baphuon was first constructed in the middle of the 11th century. Although Cambodia's civil war interrupted archaeological work on the Baphuon, the temple has recently been reopened to the public and is currently undergoing reconstruction.
Thousands of people once lined the 350m Elephant Terrace viewing stand to watch official royal ceremonies and other public events. Nowadays, the Elephant Terrace, whose elaborate decorations also include lions, is much more relaxing and tranquil, but no less beautiful.
This impressive terrace received its current name from a 15th century sculpture of the Hindu god of death discovered at the site. The sculpture became known as the Leper King because of its growing moss and discoloration.
It takes roughly three and a half hours to walk the 13kms around the Terrace of the Leper King's five entrance gates, the most tranquil of which are the northern and western gates. The terrace also includes eastern and southern gates along with a Victory Gate on its east wall.
This Hindu temple is one of the most popular places to see sunset views of Angkor Wat, but Phnom Bakheng was actually built over two centuries prior to Angkor Wat and was once the region's main temple.
Phnom Bakheng stands on top of a steep hill one and a half kilometers northwest of Angkor Wat, and is shaped like a pyramid. This temple has six tiers, and its top level contains five sandstone sanctuaries, but most of the 108 small towers which once stood around Phnom Bakheng have now collapsed.
Phnom Bakheng can become very crowded at sunset, and it takes roughly half an hour to climb to the top, an especially dangerous feat after dark. Visitors can ride up and down the hill on elephants for extra fees.
Much of this temple remains covered in trees and other jungle plants, which is how Ta Prohm was first unearthed during the 19th century. Ta Prohm has become one of Angkor Archaeological Park’s most popular temples for its beautiful stone and wood structure, and its appearance in the Tomb Raider film starring Angelina Jolie.
Ta Prohm is currently being rebuilt and many of the trees and other plants once surrounding the temple have now been removed.
Preah Khan is another temple which remains covered by vegetation, and which is even older than Angkor Wat, which lies three kilometers to its south. Preah Khan was not only a temple, but also a city and Buddhist university which once housed nearly 100,000 servants and officials. There were also up to 1,000 teachers and dancers at Preah Khan at one point. A moat surrounds Preah Khan, which also includes a House of Fire, a Hall of Dancers, and a courtyard with two libraries.
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