Our Perfect Gamer Holiday Guide continues in Siem Reap via some truly amazing structures in Bayon and Angkor Thom. Get your Tomb Raider not-so-short shorts and rise early (5AM) to avoid the heat and crowds as best you can whilst still enjoying this glorious architectural marvel.
Perfect Gamer Holiday Day 2: Tomb Raider Faces of Bayon & Angkor Thom, The Great City
Today’s locations are rather famous, not only from their iconic depictions of serene faces but because they were prominently featured on the Tomb Raider movies. This generated some international photographers to focus on the monuments and bring them to the world scene.
Today’s transportation is the modernized Tuk-Tuk. This used to be carried by a person, similar to what you would see in Japan, but is now pulled by a bike.
To get a feel of the place, this is a video from our 6AM ride towards the tourist zone. Cambodians rise and sleep early , and you can see an army of mopeds heading to work.
Angkor Thom Southern Gate
First we approach the Southern Gate of the Great City of Angkor Thom. This was the Khmer Empire capital from 12th Century until 15th century, and covers 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) in a square shape. Surrounded by a moat an large walls featuring 5 entrances all with different purposes. One entrance for merchants, one for army and king, one for the dead, etc.
The first thing you see as you approach is the moat and bridge that lead into the city. The gate is used as a road to this day. You also get your first full glimpse at the fantastic rendering of the Hindu “Churning of the Milk” tale. In the myth, the 54 angels and demons of the universe grew tired of fighting each other in search of immorality. They sought advise from the god Vishnu, who told them to work together. Thus, with the assistance of the serpent god Naga, angels and demons used the reptile as a rope and tied it around Mount Mandara to “milk it” of the elixir of immorality: Amrita.
Bayon: Tomb Raider come to Life
Within Angkor Thom, a fantastic ruin of a truly beautiful construction awaits. Originally featuring 50 towers and 200 smiling faces painted in beautiful bright green and gold, the remaining 37 towers are as enigmatic as the Mona Lisa’s smile.
As you saw from the gallery, Bayon offers some beautifully familiar Uncharted and Tomb Raider scenes. Some of the damage to the temple is the result of destruction by Hindu worshipers who removed Buddhist iconography, but it is nowadays a Buddhist worship destination.
Angkor Thom – Royal Palace & Great City
Leaving Bayon, your guide may point out to you the location of the Royal Palace – a wooden structure now completely gone. You then walk by the “Elephant Terrace” and towards the Baphuon. This Khmer temple dedicated to Shiva was built on the 11th Century and once crowned with Gold.
130 meters (426 feet) wide and 50 meters (164 feet) tall, the temple fell into utter disrepair as centuries passed and has posited a real challenge for restoration efforts. Although the death of the building monarch halted construction, the temple itself was doomed from poor architecture, with lower tiers not strong enough to support the increasingly higher upper platforms.
For those of you who played Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword, Angkor Thom has probably been familar. Either way, the lost city and its temples are a fantastic attraction that we are lucky to see restored – as many projects are just now reaching completion and reopening to the public.
Enjoy the ride back through the local markets, and stop for exploring if you aren’t too exhausted!
You can also go to our other articles for this series:
- Introduction to Cambodia
- Aman Amansaran Review
- Tour Guide to Siem Reap: Day 1
Uncharted East of Angkor & Khemer Dance
- Tour Guide to Siem Reap: Day 2
The Faces of Bayon and Angkor Thom, The Great City
- Tour Guide to Siem Reap: Day 3
Angkor Wat at Sunrise, Ta Prohm Tomb Raider, and Traditional Khmer Breakfast
- Tour Guide to Siem Reap: Day 4
Lost Temples of Banteay Srei, Beng Mealea & Koh Ker
- Tour Guide to Siem Reap: Day 5
Conservation d’ Angkor, Tonle Sap Sunset Cruise
- Tour Guide to Siem Reap: Day 6
Museum, Shopping, Bargaining and a Spiritual Water Blessing