The City of Smiles

The beauty of Angkor at sunrise is enough to sustain you through morning. The next stop is Angkor Thom, the capital city of Jayavarman VII until the 17th century. The prominent identifier of Angkor Thom is the line-up of asuras on the bridge across the moat.

After crossing the Angkor Vat, the usual approach is to enter from the South Gate, also known as the Death Gate. As I was busy snapping away pictures of this ominous sounding gate, the driver explained to me how there are four gates that has been built at each cardinal direction, all with similar architecture style and yet differing in their names. The road, courtesy of the Cambodian government, has been built through these gates and converge at the central main temple of the founding King, known as The Bayon. 

Once you cross the Southern gate, you directly end up at the footstep of the beautiful temple of Bayon. And for a moment, you will be creeped out with thousands of stone faces smiling alluringly at you with you no purpose. It is like the botox of time on magnificence. 

The whole temple is composed of galleries, with the face towers dominating over them along with over terraces. Due to the difference in height of each tower, I had these weird impression of a forest of smiling-face towers overlooking me. The best part of the experience of visiting this temple was the fact that not only can you enter the temple from any point, but amidst the confusion of narrow corridors and stairways and low ceilings, the glimpses of the enigmatic, perfectly carved faces made it a unique experience. My guide was gleefully guiding me to right windows and vantage points to get that perfect frame of picture, as you can see from the pictures.

Once I stopped the mad clicking, I noticed the unique bas-reliefs that were present inside the temple, that were at par with the ones in Angkor Vat. It was quite difficult to take pictures with the hoard of mad crowd indulging in the same activity, but the sense of wonder prevailing among all of us could be seen and felt on each of our expressions.


However, the most significant and unique feature that I found intriguing was the presence of deities from two entirely different religious philosophies. The spiritual history of the place and its distinct cultural impact could be felt and heard in every brick and mortar of the temple.

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  1. Thanks for sharing this, Ishita. The architecture and layout is indeed impressive.
    I enjoyed the trip round the temple. Though I am curious.. Why the name – “dead” gate?


    • Well from what the guide told the gate was commonly used to transport the king to his funeral!! Not sure about the accuracy of this information, so I didn’t provide it

      Liked by 1 person

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