Mekong Delta Travel in Vietnam 2024
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Angkor Thom

Every  gate (North, South, East, West and Victory) towers above the  visitor, the  magnanimous faces of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara staring out over the kingdom. Imagine that you were  a peasant in the 13th century approaching the forbidding capital for the first time? It would have been a formidable but  unsettling experience to  enter such a gateway and come directly  with the divine power of the god-kings.
The  end  great  capital of the Khmer empire, Angkor Thom – set over 10 sq km – took monumental to a whole new level.  Built in part as a reaction to the surprise sacking of Angkor by the Chams, Jayavarman VII (r 1181–1219)  came to a decision  that his empire would never again be at risk  at home. Beyond the  formidable walls is a vast   moat that would have  stopped all but the  hardiest invaders in their tracks.

đen angkor thom campuchia


If you have one day, visit Ta Prohm at dawn and discover  the  distinctive  forest  temple  while it’s still  calm . From this view  continue to Angkor Wat around 8am and enjoy the post-sunrise quiet to  explore this  mighty temple. In the afternoon, discover  the temples within the walled city of Angkor Thom and the beauty of the Bayon in the late-afternoon light.

If you have three days, follow up the first action-packed day by beating the travellers  to beautiful Banteay Srei, with a quick stop at Preah Khan along the way. Then make your way to the River of a Thousand Lingas at Kbal Spean. On the third  day, head out to the Roluos area and then on to the huge forest  temple of Beng Mealea.
For those with a week, continue the three-day itinerary with a visit to the remote temple of Koh Ker. For a change of pace, take a boat to the watery village of Kompong Pluk.


Tickets & Guides
The ticket booth (1-day/3-day/1-week tourist pass US$20/40/60, children under 12 free;  5am-5.30pm) is on the road from Siem Reap to Angkor. Tickets issued after 5pm (for sunset viewing) are valid the next day. Tickets are not valid for Phnom Kulen or Beng Mealea. Get caught ticketless in a temple and you’ll be fined US$100. The Khmer Angkor Tour Guide Association can arrange certified tour guides in 10 languages (US$25 to US$50 a day).

All the major temples have some sort of nourishment near the entrance. The most extensive selection of restaurants is opposite the entrance to Angkor Wat. Some wonderful  Khmer restaurants line the northern shore of Sra Srang.

Bikes  are a great way to get to and around the temples, which are connected  by flat roads in good shape. Various guesthouses and hotels rent out White Bicycles and proceeds go to local development projects.
Motos are a popular form of transport around the temples (around US$10 per day, more for distant sites). Drivers accost travellers  from the moment they go to  Siem Reap, but they’re often knowledgeable and friendly.
Remorks (around US$15 a day, more for distant sites) take a little longer than motos but offer protection from the rain and sun. Even more protection is offered by cars (about US $30 a day, more for distant sites), although  these tend to isolate you from the sights, sounds and smells.
Hiring a car to more remote sites will cost about US$50 to Kbal Spean and Banteay Srei, and about US$70 to Beng Mealea.

Bayon is unique even among its cherished contemporaries. It epitomises the creative genius and inflated ego of Cambodia’s legendary king, Jayavarman VII  . It’s a place of stooped corridors, precipitous flights of stairs and, best of all, a collection of 54 Gothic towers decorated with 216 coldly smiling, enormous faces of Avalokiteshvara that bear more than a passing resemblance to the great king himself.

These enormous  heads glare down from each  angle, exuding power and control with a hint of humanity – this was precisely the blend required to hold sway over such a vast empire, ensuring the disparate and far-flung population yielded to his magnanimous will. As you walk around, a dozen or more of the heads can be seen  at any one time – full-face or in profile, almost level with your eyes or staring down from on high.

Although for many years its origins were unknown,Bayon is now known to have been built by Jayavarman VII . Shrouded in dense forest , it also took  researchers some time to know  that it stands in the exact centre of the city of Angkor Thom. There is still much mystery associated with Bayon –  for instance  its exact function and symbolism – and this seems only appropriate for a monument whose signature is an enigmatic smiling face.

The eastward orientation of Bayon leads many people  to  visit early in the morning, preferably just after sunrise, as  the sun inches upwards, lighting face after face. However, Bayon  looks equally  good in the late afternoon, and if you  stayuntil  the sunset you get the same effect as at sunrise, in reverse. A Japanese team is restoring  several outer areas of the temple.


 About 200m northwest of Bayon, the Baphuon is a pyramidal representation of mythical Mt Meru, which marked the centre of the city that existed before the construction of Angkor Thom. Restoration efforts were damaged  by the Cambodian civil war and all records were  disrupted  during the Khmer Rouge years, leaving French experts with the world’s greatest  jigsaw puzzle. On the western side, the retaining wall of the second level was fashioned – apparently in the 15th or 16th century – into a reclining Buddha 60m in length.


Terrace of Elephants HISTORICAL BUILDING
The 350m-long Terrace of Elephants – decorated with parading elephants  towards both ends – served as a great  viewing stand for public ceremonies and as a base for the king’s grand audience hall. When  you stand here, try to imagine the pomp and grandeur of the Khmer empire at its height, with infantry, cavalry, horse-drawn chariots and,  of course, elephants parading across the Central Square in a colourful procession, pennants and standards aloft.

Terrace of the Leper King HISTORICAL BUILDING
Just north of the Terrace of Elephants, the Terrace of the Leper King is a 7m-high platform. On top of the platform  stands a nude, though sexless, statue, another of Angkor’s mysteries. Legend has it that at least  two of the Angkor kings had leprosy. It’s possible  that it is Yama, the god of death, and that the Terrace of the Leper King housed the royal crematorium.

New in 2013, Angkor is the  final  backdrop for a zip-line experience in Asia. Flight of the Gibbon Angkor is inside the Angkor protected area and the course consists of  10 zip lines, 21 treetop platforms,  four skybridges and an abseil finish. A conservation element is comprised of  the project with two  gibbons released in the surrounding forest. The price includes a transfer to/from any Siem Reap hotel,  plus a lunch before or after the trip near Sra Srang.



Mekong Delta Travel 1, 2 and 3 Days – Mekong River Vietnam