This visit is devoted entirely to the vestiges of a great constructive activity, that of the famous king Jayavarman VII considered as the greatest king of the Khmer Empire (1182 – 1219). Contrary to his predecessors, he was a Buddhist and never fought against Hinduism. His artwork was monumental, we owe him the consecration of the temple of Ta Prohm and the temple of Preah Khan, with a great baray in the north recently restored by Apsara National Authority, after being abandoned during 5 centuries. In the center of this baray stands an island with a sanctuary, Neak Pean. He also erected other temples such as Banteay Kdei and Ta Som and Sras Srang, a Royal Basin, but the most remarkable monumental work remains without any doubt, Angkor Thom, a fortified city of 30 000 hectares.
Despite the prevailing presence of the forest, the temples and the octagonal plan (still visible in the orientation of the roads and gates, according to the cardinal points) give visitors the impression of an urban complex. The excavations in progress of EFEO (École Française d’Extrême-Orient) have revealed a regular plan (a cadastre!) and this regularity is marked, as you will be able to see, by waterways, ditches, streets, landings, ramparts and moats.
It is necessary to take time to discover the splendors of the Bayon temple, famous for its many faces that crown its towers and by the quality of the bas-reliefs that adorn its galleries. It is the only temple to have two concentric galleries sculpted with bas-reliefs: internal one depicting mythological subjects of Brahmanic inspiration and outer galleries dedicated to scenes of everyday life and historic episodes, processions and battles. This is an extraordinary source of documentation that gave to scholars an idea of customs and conditions of life during Khmer Empire under Jayavarman VII reign.
Do not miss scenes showing Khmer army on the march with musicians, horsemen, and officers mounted on elephants, followed by wagons of provisions ; military procession including both Khmers and Chams, elephants, war machines such as a large crossbow and a catapult…
Spending a whole day in Angkor Thom will give you the opportunity to admire the marvels of architecture and the sculpture of the Baphuon as well as the large terraces.
Outside the city, it is mainly the Ta Prohm where the scenography created by the trees mixed with the monuments will attract attention!
Back to Siem Reap, enjoy a traditional Cambodian BBQ, it is a favorite among Khmer people, and is a delicious way to end the day.