on February 20, 2006
The royal residence of Jayavarman VII, Angkor Thom, is another must-see sight in Siem Reap. Much of the royal palace remains in ruins. Restoration, however, is underway. Terrace of the Leper KingThis was postulated to be a cremation site for the aristocracy of Angkor. The Terrace is built to reflect death and hell, while bas-reliefs depict scenes of royal pageantry, apsaras, nagas, and garudas on the slopes of Mount Mera (home of the Gods). Terrance of the ElephantsLocated opposite of the Terrace of the Leper King, this is also known as the Royal Terrace. It was built in the 12th century by Suryavarman I. It was originally the raised base of a hall and is decorated with a bas-relief of elephants and hunting scenes. The Phimeanakas or the Flying PalaceThis pyramidal temple in the center of the Royal palace stands mostly in ruins. Visitors can climb to the pinnacle via the back approach, although we saw a few adventurous souls who chose to risk injuries by climbing from the front. Here, we learnt from Mr Thy of a local myth where the Angkor kings were required to sleep in the tower every night with the nine-headed naga, in a form of a woman. Should he fail in this duty, the kingdom would suffer. The Sras SreiThe Sras Srei or "swimming pool" as our guide likes to refer it as, was once a royal bath pool. Nowadays, it is the monks and local children who bath in it. The BaphuonThis temple was built by Udayadityavarman II and is currently under major restoration, and currently off-limits to all visitors. The scented flowers of the Sleng trees encircling the temple permeate the air as we passed by and headed for the famed Bayon.The BayonAnother not-to-be-missed sight of Angkor is the Bayon, or the Temple of the faces. It is indeed a marvellous sight to behold. Images of Jayavarman VII as Bodhisattra facing four compass points, carved on blocks of stones towers high above smiling down on visitors. The intricate bas-reliefs of the outer walls, depicting scenes of daily life and major battle, were brought to life by our guide’s commentary. Visiting Angkor Thom was a somewhat exhausting but exhilarating experience. Although there was less climbing compared to the previous day, we were overwhelmed by the expanse of the Royal complex. We returned to town for lunch, and a short break at the hotel, before commencing our afternoon tour of Banteay Srei and Tonle Sap.
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