South Gate of Angkor ThomThe fortified city of Angkor Thom (Great Angkor, or Great City), is on an epic scale, some 10 sq km in size. It was built by Angkor's greatest king, Jayavarman VII (r 1181-1219), who came to power following the disastrous sacking of the previous Khmer capital by the Chams. At its height, it may have supported a population of one million people in the surrounding region.
Centred on the Bayon, Angkor Thom is enclosed by a jayagiri (square wall) 8m high and 12km in length and encircled by a jayasindhu (moat) 100m wide, said to have been inhabited by fierce crocodiles. This is yet another monumental expression of Mt Meru surrounded by the oceans.The city has five immense gates, one each in the northern, western and southern walls and two in the eastern wall. The gates are 20m in height, decorated with stone elephant trunks and crowned by four gargantuan faces of Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, facing the cardinal directions. In front of each gate stands giant statues of 54 gods (to the left of the causeway) and 54 demons (to the right of the causeway), a motif taken from the story of the Churning of the Ocean of Milk. The south gate is most popular with visitors, as it has been fully restored and many of the heads (usually copies) remain in place. The gate is on the main road into Angkor Thom from Angkor Wat, and it gets very busy. More peaceful are the east and west gates, found at the end of uneven trails. The east gate was used as a location in Tomb Raider where the bad guys broke into the 'tomb' by pulling down a giant (polystyrene!) apsara .
In the centre of the walled enclosure are the city's most important monuments, including the Bayon, the Baphuon, the Royal Enclosure, Phimeanakas and the Terrace of Elephants