immense pile of a temple
This is Ta Keo, a temple that’s not a part of Angkor Thom. In fact, it dates from much earlier,
having been begun around +1000. We just stopped outside it long enough to take pictures.
You can get a slightly larger version, too.

Monday afternoon, 14 November:
part I I: Angkor Thom

If you’ve ever seen pictures of Angkor, they almost certainly were of the roots climbing over everything in Ta Prohm, or of the monumental heads in Angkor Thom. For me, to see Angkor has been an ambition ever since my teens, and what I was thinking of most of the time was this “Great City” (which is what Angkor Thom means) and the immense sculptural features of the architecture.

a face from Angkor Thom
If these faces really are those of King Jayavarman VII,
who built this city, they must be the most expressive
of all history’s swelled heads. (Larger version.)
This is the top of the arch over the east gate to the city.
head over gate

Another view of the entrance arch (big image, small).

little plants

Plants underfoot as we walked up to get a better view (big image, small).

side view of the tower, concentrating on one head

And this is the view we got when we got high as the tower (big image, small).

folks climbing upwards without an established path

We go up to get our better view (big image, small ).

multifaced head with lichen

A smaller head, but seen up much closer (big image, small).

We entered the great city by the East Gate, and immediately climbed up to get a view of the mon­u­men­tal heads of this tower.

general view of the East Gate

The East Gate (big image, small). When I look at the design of the arch here, I think immediately of much older examples of corbelled con­struc­tion, like the so-called Treasury of Atreus and the Lion Gate, both in Mycenae.

Scenic view of tower, with tree

East Gate tower, side view (big image, small).

Steve trudges from the East Gate

Steve, and the East Gate from within Angkor Thom (big image, small).

East Gate closeup from within Angkor Thom

The inner aspect of the East Gate tower (big image, small).

I know little about architecture, and didn’t give any kind of thought to the construction of the arches and vaults that we were seeing here in the Angkor complex. But on looking at the pictures, and thinking of architectural history, I’m a little surprised here that the arches are all of the cor­bel­led type, gotten by laying stones progressively closer over the passageway till they meet at the top. This is the most ancient way of fashioning an arch, and in my naivety, I rather assumed that by the time of the construction of these mon­u­ments, less than a millennium ago, the true arch would have been used instead. You can see that the engineers here were plenty skilled, so you can’t credit them with any kind of prim­i­tive­ness or ignorance. There must have been more going on than I’m privy to.

The Bayon temple, which sits inside Angkor Thom.
We first admired from the outside, then went in. (11-second clip)

The Bayon enjoys pride of place pretty much at the center of Angkor Thom. For a while we stood outside while a group of young monks descended from within, each holding what seemed to be an iPad. I have inordinately many snaps of these fellows, and have shown only two of them.


A better view of Bayon than the video above (big image, small).

many folks kneeling

These folks seem to be engaged in a purely peaceful pursuit (big image, small).

Galley slaves? I don’t know, maybe they’re doing their patriotic duty to the glorious Khmer Kingdom (big image, small).

monks in front of Bayon, posing

Five serious monks, with iPad (big image, small).

tower of Bayon

As we climb into the temple, we are watched over by benign faces (big image, small).

rear view of mad photographer

Alan, I think, photographing (big image, small).

monks in doorway, fairly far away

Photo taken a bit before the one to the left (big image, small).

massed men, but it’s not clear what they’re occupied in

Marching as to war ( I think ). (Big image, small).


Symmetrical dancers, perhaps Apsaras (big image, small).

After standing outside Bayon for a little while, we entered and had lots more opportunity for taking photographs, and above, you see a tiny fraction of the pictures I took there. Most of those were what we saw after climbing a stair and getting out into the open where there were crowds of people. In my excitement to get one more shot, I got separated from the group (or they got separated from me) and it took me a good little while in the mazelike passages up there to find them again.

open-air four-faced monument
My very last picture from this day, or almost. ( Larger image.)

After Bayon, we went to the Elephant Terrace, and there I shot a very inferior video in which the marching elephants show up too poorly. From there, to a much-needed shower back in the hotel, and then our dinner for which we congregated at 7:30; the meal ended only around 10:00, and we went right to bed.

We had piled three big tourist attractions into this one day: the Thousand Lingams, Ta Prohm, and Angkor Thom. It was a demanding schedule, and my feet knew it. Tomorrow would be devoted to Angkor Wat and a celebratory lunch in a fine restaurant. But you’ll have to go to the next page to learn about that.