At 6h30 in the morning I meet my guide and we set off in what is the Cambodian version of a Tuktuk for the south gate of Angkor Thom.
Our first stop is the celestial palace of Bophoun, which used to be the state temple of King Udayadityavarman. The structure is built on three levels, which symbolise hell, earth and heaven. The walls of the celestial palace are covered with relief images of Angkor’s history. In fact, there does not seem to be any flat surface on the walls of the temple.
There are towers at the corners of the temple on each of the three levels. Every tower has four faces carved out of stone, which face the four cardinal points of the compass. To save weight, the towers are hollow inside. It is not know, if the faces were carved to resemble the king who commissioned the temple or the Buddah to which the temple is dedicated. The temple took 21 years to complete, although it is not known how many people worked on the temple. Upon completion, only the king and two of his monks were allowed to enter the sanctuary of the temple, where they allegedly received the divine inspiration for the king to share with his people.
The royal palace is just slightly further down the road. Unfortunately, it is not as well preserved at the temple. That is because the entire structure of the temple is built of stone, whereas the edifices with the king’s private chambers were built out of mahogany wood. When the Siamese invaded the kingdom of the Khmer, they raised the capital to the ground and set fire to the palace. The centre piece of the roaly palace is a temple that predates the one of Bayan, it is a Hindu temple.
If you are visiting the area, I would really recommend making an early start. By the time we leave the temple area at around 08h50, the roads are already starting to get clogged up with tourist busses, Tuktuks and elephants.