Didem Doğan

While Discovering Angkor: Angkor Thom and Phimeanakas

We left behind Angkor Wat. We are keeping pedaling. The series of statues on the bridge we will pass over in a few kilometers herald another ancient settlement. Angkor Thom is the last Khmer Empire city and it has the longest history of settlement. Back in its glorious days it was a city where more than a hundred thousand people lived. It was abandoned in the 16th century. It is the first big edifice you would see when you enter Angkor Thom. After parking our bicycles, we are approaching the city, walking on the long bridge constructed over the river. This place is Phimeanakas, the Hindu temple built in the late 10th century. We climb the stairs up to the first floor and we are told that the temple used to have a tower in its original design. It is pretty well-preserved despite the toll of the age. When we finally get to the highest floor, we cannot bring ourselves to leave the scenery and take the stairs down. The monotonous voices of the priests chanting are carried forward to us through the jungle. We are standing there mesmerized. After a while, walking around the back of the temple, we are noticing the silhouette of a lying Buddha statue at the back extending along the whole façade of the building. There is a courtyard called Elephant Terrace in the remaining area of Phimeanakas: This is a 400 meter long square where the king used to hail the people and welcome his army on its way back from a war. With its elephant engravings on the wall, some far off the temple, it is a genuine welcoming yard.