Photo: Don’t mess with these demons.

Angkor Thom

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Jayavarman VII ruled the Khmer empire from around 1181 to 1220 during which time he decided to strengthen his capital and protect it from further attacks—leading to the walled city of Angkor Thom.





Surrounded by moats, an imposing laterite wall and five gates to enter and exit from, the site remained in use for hundreds of years after his death. Work commenced on the city more or less as a rebuilding project after the previous state capital was sacked by marauding Chams.

No more crocs ...  Photo taken in or around Angkor Thom, Angkor, Cambodia by Caroline Major.

No more crocs ... Photo: Caroline Major

The vast majority of people would have lived outside the city’s walls—a huge low density population spread out towards the East and West Barays and Siem Reap river—though nothing remains of their wooden dwellings and the enclosure itself has been largely taken back by the forest. Research in 2013 using LiDAR laser scanning technology confirmed the walls did not enclose the downtown area and that in fact the entire landscape was more complex than ever before known by researchers, with satellite cities connecting to the central metropolis.

The scale of the city of Angkor Thom is daunting. It measures three kilometres in length on each of its four eight-metre-high walls. Approximately, at least—it isn’t exactly a perfect square and is one degree off being positioned precisely north, but not a bad effort for builders of the time. All of this was once surrounded by a moat up to 100 metres wide, which formed part of the city’s elaborate hydraulic network. While today much of the moat has been given over to rice cultivation, it would be a safe assumption that the moat was once inhabited by something with a snappier bite than carp. These days you can enjoy relaxing—though expensive—gondola boat rides along the stretch of the moat between the South and West Gates, which is particularly picturesque ... please log in to read the rest of this story.


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Angkor Thom
Angkor Thom's southern gate is around 2km north of Angkor Wat's west gate

Location map for Angkor Thom

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Popular attractions in Angkor

A selection of some of our favourite sights and activities around Angkor.



What next?

 Check out our listings of things to do in and around Angkor.
 Read up on how to get to Angkor, or book your transport online with Camboticket.
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