Grand circuit stretches from Srash Srong to Chhang Gate. The temples are Neak Pean, Preah Khan, Rolous, Preah Kor, Bakong, Lolei, Phnom Kulen, Kbal Spean, Phnom Bakheng, Baksei Chamkrong, Prasat Bei, South Gate Angkor Thom, Terrace of Leperking, Preah Palilay, Tep Pranam, Preah Pithu, North Gate Angkor Thom, Bateay Prei, Krol Ko, Ta Som, East Mebon, Pre Rup, Prasat Kravan.
Phnom Bakheng was constructed more than two centuries before the Angkor Wat. It is a Hindu temple originally built in the form of a temple mountain dedicated to Shiva. Historians believe that Phnom Bakheng was in its heyday, the principal temple of the Angkor region. It was the architectural centerpiece of a new capital that Yasovarman built when he moved the court from the capital Hariharalaya in the Roluos area located to the southeast.
Located atop a hill, this is the most popular tourist spot for sunset views of the much bigger Angkor Wat temple which lies amid the jungle about 1.5 km away.
A towering 12-meter tall brick and laterite step-pyramid. Harshavarman I began construction or perhaps dedicated statues at the site in the early 10th century. It was later improved/restored by Rajendravarman II shortly after the capital was returned to Angkor from Koh Ker. According to inscriptions on the doorway, Rejendravarman II consecrated with the installation of a golden Shiva image in 947AD. It may have also served as a funerary temple. Combine with a visit to the South Gate in the morning or Phnom Bakheng in the evening. Lighting is best in the morning.
SOUTH GATE OF ANGKOR THOM
Angkor Thom is another walled and moated temple city. Built by King Jayavarmam VII in the early 13th century it covers about 3 square kilometer. At the South Gate, visitors will often see the elephants that carry people up to the top of the nearby Phnom Bakheng temple, which is a good place to see the sunset or sunrise over Angkor Wat.
TERRACE OF LEPER KING
Double terrace wall at the north end of the Terrace of Elephants with deeply carved nagas, demons and other mythological beings. The inner wall is an earlier version of the outer wall that was covered at the time the outer wall was added. French archaeologists excavated the inner wall in the late 1990s. The terrace was named for the statue of the ‘Leper King’ that sits on top. Why the statue is known as the ‘leper king’ is a matter of debate. Some argued that when the statue was found, its lichen-eaten condition gave it the appearance of leprosy. Others have argued that it is a statue of the leper king of Khmer legend, or that the condition of the statue inspired its connection to the legend. The model for the statue is also a matter of debate. Suggestions include a couple of different Hindu gods, and the Khmer kings Yasovarman I and Jayavarman VII. Recent scholarship favors a combination of Jayavarman VII and Buddha. The statue of the leper king on display at the terrace is a replica. The original resides in the National Museum in Phnom Penh.
NORTH GATE OF ANGKOR THOM
Built by King Jayavarmam VII in the early 13th century this is one of five entrance gates to the main Angkor Thom complex. The wall around the Angkor Thom complex is 8 meters high. The gates set in the wall are all around 20 meters tall. This would have to be one of the prettiest of the gates, in a peaceful wooded setting.
Preah Khan was built on the site of Jayavarman VII’s victory over the invading Chams in 1191. In its heyday, this was the centre of a substantial organisation with almost 100,000 officials and servants. This temple is flat in design, with a basic plan of successive rectangular galleries around a Buddhist sanctuary complicated by Hindu satellite temples and numerous later additions. With numerous trees and other vegetation growing among the ruins, Preah Khan has been left largely unrestored.
A small island temple located in the middle of the last baray (the Preah Khan Baray or Jayatataka) to be constructed by a Khmer king in the Angkor area. The central temple sits at the axis of a cross or lotus pattern of eight pools. Originally known as Rajasri, Neak Pean took its modern appellation, which means ‘coiled serpents,’ from the encoiled nagas that encircled the temple. A statue of the horse, Balaha, saving drowning sailors, faces the temple. Though originally dedicated to Buddha, Neak Pean contains several Hindu images. Neak Pean may have served an absolution function, and the waters were thought to have healing properties. During the dry season when the water is low, check out the animal and human headwater spouts at the outside center of each pool. Neak Pean is most photogenic in the wet season when the pools are full.
Pre Rup is architecturally and artistically superior temple-mountain. It has beautifully carved false doors on upper level, as well as an excellent view of the surrounding countryside. The temple boasts richly detailed, Well-preserved carvings. Traditionally believed to be a funerary temple, but in fact the state temple of Rajendravarman II. Historically important in that it was the second temple built after the capital was returned to Angkor from Koh Ker after a period of political upheaval. The artistically similar East Mebon was the first to be constructed after the return to Angkor, less than a decade earlier.