Angkor Thom - History of Angkor Thom

Angkor Thom means great city. It was a fitting name for the new capital of the Khmer Kingdom, which King Jayavarman VII constructed after he successfully drove out the Chams – the people responsible for the destruction of Khmer's former capital, Yasodharapura. To ward off threats to the kingdom's peace, the king had the city surrounded by high walls, complete with a wide moat enclosure. Even after the new kingdom was built, a number of older monuments that were already in place were retained. These monuments include the Phimeanakas, a 10th century Khleang-style Hindu temple, and the Baphuon, an 11th century three-tiered former state temple dedicated to the Hindu goddess Shiva.

King Jayavarman VII's Royal Palace, built to the north of the Bayon, did not withstand the test of time. Since the palace was made from light materials, only the stone terraces – the Elephant terrance and the Leper King terrace – can be seen at present. There were thousands upon thousands of commoners who inhabited the city and once resided in wooden houses, which have long since decayed. Angkor Thom was praised for being advanced beyond its years and the kingdom provided for its citizens' basic needs. In addition to well-developed roads and waterways, the city had four hospitals and places where cityfolks could engage in trade and commerce.

In the 1800s, the Khmer Kingdom started to lose its influence and the city became deserted. French explorers rediscovered the city covered in thick wild jungle plants. An organization called the Ecole Francaise d'Extreme-Orient commissioned a team to clear and restore the monuments to its former glory. Today, Angkor Thom is one of the top tourist attractions in Cambodia, along with Angkor Wat. Millions of tourists visit the country each year just to see the temples and the walled city.