The second stop on the small circuit at Angkor is Angkor Thom, most famous for the face towers at the Bayon temple. I forgot to mention in my previous post that many visitors to Angkor follow two circuits, the small circuit and the grand circuit when they visit the temples. These circuits were laid out by the French in the 20th century and continue to be followed by visitors today.
Regrettably, we did not get a very good tour of Angkor Thom as the guide we hired for our visit to Angkor was not as diligent as was to be expected. Generally, a tour of the highlights of the small circuit at Angkor should take a full day, visiting Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, and Ta Prohm. Our tour was completed in four hours. In our opinion a good guide can be very helpful and a good value at the cost of $35usd for the day; however, it’s disappointing when the services provided are lacklustre. Thankfully we purchased a three-day temple pass and were able to return on another day by ourselves to visit some of the temples we felt we did not get enough time at such as Bayon and Ta Prohm (the latter will be covered in my next post).
Unlike Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom is actually not a temple but rather a city. Literally translated Angkor Thom means “great city” or “large city”. It is the last city of the Khmer empire. Many of its buildings including the palace have long disappeared indicating they were likely constructed of wood. Some of the temples and distinctive features remaining within Angkor Thom are the five entrance gates (of which Victory Gate is the most well known), Terrace of the Elephants, Terrace of the Leper King, Phnom Bakheng (temple mountain), and most famously the Bayon temple.