Location: inside the enclosure walls of the Royal Palace
Access: walk over the Terrace of Elephants and through the east gopura of the enclosure wall encircling the Royal Palace. You are on the principal access to the temple. Alternatively, follow the pathway between the two terraces, bearing left through a breech in the enclosure wall, close to the north-east gopura. The temple’s tiered platform will be visible from here to the west

Tip: for those who want to climb to the top, use the west stairway
Date: 10th century-early 11th century
King: Rajendravarman II (reigned 941-968)
Religion: Hindu
Art style: Kleang


Phimeanakas, located inside the Royal Palace compound, was the temple where the king worshipped. I t must originally have been crowned with a golden pinnacle, as Zhou Daguan described it as the ‘Tower of Gold’. I t is small compared with others, but, even so, it has appeal and is situated in idyllic surroundings. Although its construction seems to have been initiated by Rajendravarman II, subsequent kings made additions, Suryavarman I in the 11th century made the most significant ones.

This temple is associated with a legend that tells of a gold tower (Phimeanakas) Inside the royal palace of Angkor the Great, where a serpent-spirit with nine heads lived. The spirit appeared to the Khmer king disguised as a woman and the king had to sleep with her every night in the tower before he joined his wives and concubines in another part of the palace. If the king missed even one night it was believed he would die. In this way the royal lineage of the Khmers was perpetuated.


Your prelude to Phimeanakas is through the cruciform east gopura. Its lintels are of Kleang style with a central motif of a kala head; inscriptions on the door frames detail an oath of fidelity for dignitaries of the empire. Continue walking west until you reach the temple. The general plan of Phimeanakas is rectangular with cruciform gopuras. The temple, built of laterite and sandstone, originally consisted of a central sanctuary on a tiered platform and an enclosure wall. The grounds around the sanctuary included several courts and ponds that were part of the Royal Palace. A second enclosure wall, surrounded by a moat (now dry) was built at a later date.


The single sanctuary stands on a base with three laterite tiers and is approached by four steep stairways, one on each side (1). These stairways are framed by walls with six projections – two per step – decorated with lions. Elephants once stood on sandstone pedestals in the corners of the base, but, today, they are mostly broken.


The upper terrace affords a fine view of the neighboring temple of the Baphuon. A narrow, covered sandstone gallery (2) with windows and balusters at the edge of the upper terrace is the first appearance of a stone gallery with a central sanctuary. There were small pavilions at the corners, but only vestiges remain.


To the north of Phimeanakas, there are two ponds that were part of the Royal Palace compound. The smaller and deeper pond, known as Srah Srei or the women’s bath, which is closest to the main road, is identified by moulding and laterite steps. The other larger pond or the men’s bath directly to its west, can be reached by a footpath to the right of Phimeanakas. Follow it, and until you come to a large pond paved in laterite with sandstone steps. Continue walking until you are standing on the north edge of the pond. Then turn back and look at the amazing sculpted borders, in two tiers and carved in high relief, on the opposite side. You will see nagas sculpted in animal and human form surrounded by naga-princesses; on the top there are male and female garudas and mythical winged figures. This entire area was probably crowned by a platform with a naga balustrade, and may have served as a gallery for the sovereign and dignitaries of the court.

Preah Vihear: ‘Mountain of the sacred monastery

Location: 100 kilometres (62 miles) northeast of Siem Reap Access: Tip: Spectacular views of Cambodia and Thailand from the Dangrek Mountains Date: Construction probably began in the late ninth to early tenth centuries and continued in the mid-12th century King: begun by Yasovarman I

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Koh Ker

King Jayavarman IV ‘founded by his own power, a city which was the seat of the prosperities of the universe’. – From an inscription in Lawrence Briggs’  The ancient Khmer emplire, reprint, Bankok, White Lotus, 1999 Location: Approximately 3-4 hours from Siem Reap by Road. Take R

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Beng Mealea: ‘The Lotus Pool’

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Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat, in its beauty and state of preservation, is unrivaled. Its mightiness and magnificence bespeak a pomp luxury surpassing that of a pharaoh or a shah Jaham, an impressiveness greater than that of the Pyramids, an artistic distinctiveness as fine as that of the Taj Mahal. Loc

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We stand before it stunned. It is like nothing else in the land. Location: in the centre of the city of Angkor Thom, 1.5 kilometres (1 mile) from the south gate Access: enter from the east Date: late 12th century to early 13th century King: Jayavarman VII (reigned 1181-1120) Religion:

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Terrace of the Leper King

The stone monarch is absolutely naked, his hair is plaited and he sits in the Javanese fashion. The legs are too short for the torso, and the forms, much too founded, lack the strong protuberances of manly muscles; but, however glaring are his defects, he has many beauties, and as a s

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Terrace of the Elephants

An imperial hunt in the somber forests of the realm. There are formidable elephants…. The forest in which they travel is impenetrable to all but tiny creatures, able to squeeze their smallness between the fissures of the undergrowth, and to the biggest animals, which crush chasm

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North of the Golden Tower [Bayon] … rises the Tower of Bronze [Baphuon], higher even than the Golden Tower: a truly astonishing spectacle, with more than ten chambers at its base. Location: 200 metres (656 feet) north-west of the Bayon, and south of Phimeanakas Access: enter and

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Phimeanakas: ‘Aerial Palace’

Location: inside the enclosure walls of the Royal Palace Access: walk over the Terrace of Elephants and through the east gopura of the enclosure wall encircling the Royal Palace. You are on the principal access to the temple. Alternatively, follow the pathway between the two

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Angkor Thom

Angkor Thom is undeniably an expression of the highest genius. It is, in three dimensions and on a scale worthy of an entire nation, the materialization of Buddhist cosmology, representing ideas that only great painters would dare to portray…. Angkor Thom is not an architectural

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Ta Prom

Ta Prohm (Khmer: ប្រាសាទតាព្រហ្ម, pronunciation: prasat taprohm) is the modern name of the temple at Angkor, Siem Reap Province, Cambodia, built in the Bayon style largely in the late 12th and early 13th centuries and originally called Rajavihara (in Khmer: រាជវិហារ)...

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Banteay Srei

Banteay Srei or Banteay Srey (Khmer: ប្រាសាទបន្ទាយស្រី) is a 10th-century Cambodian temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. Located in the area of Angkor in Cambodia.It lies near the hill of Phnom Dei, 25 km (16 mi) north-east of the main group of temples that once belonged to the medieval capitals of Yasodharapura and Angkor Thom...

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Preah Khan

Preah Khan (Khmer: ប្រាសាទព្រះខ័ន; "Royal Sword") is a temple at Angkor, Cambodia, built in the 12th century for King Jayavarman VII to honor his father.[1]:383–384,389[2]:174–176 It is located northeast of Angkor Thom and just west of the Jayatataka baray, with which it was associated...

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Neak Pean

Neak Pean was originally designed for medical purposes (the ancients believed that going into these pools would balance the elements in the bather, thus curing disease); it is one of the many hospitals that Jayavarman VII built. It is based on the ancient Hindu belief of balance...

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