Angkor Thom is a walled complex that holds the Bayon. This was one of my favourite temple complexes, and the most amazing thing was that from a distance it looks like a pile of rubble. It is only as you are about to enter that you realize that all four sides, of the 54 towers, are carved with enigmatic smiling faces—these faces vary in features as well. The experts agree that there are four main types, it is really amazing, you have to see it!.
On entry, turn to your left and follow the gallery along a mesmerizing sequence of stories. They may not be in technicolour, but the carving and the events depicted are so detailed, and graphic, that you feel you are watching a movie unfold before you. Armies of soldiers row war canoes into battle with giant crocodiles snatching an easy meal, fierce warriors face off while holding on to their fighting dogs, and many more.
At the end, double back and enter the section with the towers. Each of these is around three stories high, they are hollow and inside many are small offerings and statues with incense burning. No matter where you are, there will be a face looking down on you, turn and enter a doorway and there is a face looking back.
The sheer scale of carving, also extends to the various pillars or columns upon which each has two or three dancing Apsara (heavenly nymphs), over a bed of lilies, delicately carved and full of movement. Every lintel is ornately carved, with more intricate carvings of deities. A surface that has not been decorated hardly remains .
When you have finished with the main temple area, the towers continue towards the west gate, and the Baphuon which is currently being restored and so it could not be accessed. Here, you will come across local people, mainly kids, that start to chat and offer to explain the history of the temples that they know by rote. They will normally then give you a story about how they need money for school, books, and so on and ask for money. However, they are not looking for the worthless Cambodian currency, but Thai baht because it is worth so much more. It’s up to you what you do, they normally scamper off when you turn to enter the complex of Phimeanakas.
This complex holds the royal bathing ponds and pools, but you won’t spend much time here.
Then past the terrace of the Leper King and lastly the terrace of the Elephants in the Royal Square. Again, it is easy to imagine the King standing on his platform in full command of his armies, assembled in their full battle gear waiting to march into battle, or on a hunt. The front face of the podium is carved with giant elephants, and the front section is carved so the trunks of the beasts jut out from the actual podium. Impressive and very difficult to photograph well.