Angkor Thom is the symbol and the embodiment of Buddhism. Jayavarman VII, one of the greatest kings, built the magnificent structure to honor his victorious legacy over the Champa. During the late 12th towards the early 13th, He built this architectural monument on top of an older one to dedicate to both religion and that historical victory. The most noticeable thing about Angkor Thom is that it locates right in the center of the massive Angkor area. Towering walls of Angkor Thom gates, sublime moats, and the living soil are the surrounding characteristics of the site.
Towers of faces towards all directions, piled in different levels in structure climbing higher to the very peak. Faces that symbolizes benevolence, inner peace, and religious deity. However, the architectural wealth doesn’t end there, the gates of Angkor Thom themselves represent their own unique purpose and use as well. Only through the local tales and history that can tell the mysterious back story of the Angkor Thom gates. The scenery of all the gates of Angkor Thom is hugely underrated and mostly oblivious to many visitor’s knowledge. That’s what makes Angkor Thom gates the destination you shouldn’t miss out on. Here is the list of names and backstories of each rampart.
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The Mysterious Angkor Thom Gates you must not miss
South Gate: Tonle Om
When you make your way to Angkor Thom, the very first thing that you will see is the main entrance. Which will make no effort trying to find and it is the south gate which is Tonle Oum. You will be welcomed first hand by the ancient stone bridge sides with two rows of giant statues. One row with delightful smiles and the other with a straight face staring out front with determination. They represent the Hindu Mythology of Churning of the sea of milk, in a tug of war between the demons and the gods for the elixir of immortality. The majority number of people had used this passage during the time of the great kingdom. It held no special use of occasions like the rest of the surrounding ramparts.
The gate stands available from dusk until dawn for commoners, farmers, traders, citizens of all classes for any daily responsibility, religious purposes and any form of trades. And it names Tonle Oum, Tonle means river, Oum means row (a boat). The special name came from the annual ceremony of boat racing held at the outer moat. A ceremonial reminder of our Triumph in the field of ocean, enemy’s most lethal territory. Thus, it came to the name, Tonle Oum. Smiles of the four-faced figure rain down below with grace welcoming all travelers to the City of Angkor Thom. If they are too high or too far from your naked eyes, no worry, you can get a better view of course. Behind the gate itself, there are steps for visitors to get on them for a higher angle. Yes, you can do that, it is not intrusive or disrespectful.
East Gate: Gate of the dead (Khmoch gate)
This gate is not as terrifies as it may sound. Matter of fact, this gate had a sensible name for its purpose and value very well. So how are we going to get there? You will notice that every temple faces east, and when you are at Bayon temple, turn to the east then you are heading the right way. The narrow paths and clustered branches of trees could scare you quite a bit. However, it is as safe as any path can be, it is not a common visiting spot. Thus, the passage is left to age however it could be, that is why it looks rather creepy.
At the same time that special little environment exhibits the untouched and untampered scenery of the aging nature herself. A motorcycle or bicycle is the most suitable transport for this peaceful environment. The path consists of pebbles of limestone, spikes of big rocks and soil that holds them in place. Zigzag along the path is necessary for you to reach the end of your destination. When you’re there, the state of the gate is much older than the first one you saw. The fallen off pieces, the missing parts of the faces, sprouts, and moss roams the ruins. Lying outside is the groping forest and the identical stone bridge of the gods and demons.
Steady ripples waving between the lily pads and water plant as the buffalo swim cross. Not as bad as the name sounds right? Well, it is not. The story is, the gate was dedicated to funerals, a ceremony for the death that belongs from within the city of Angkor. However, the deceased was to be cast into the water outside the gate as a form of a proper burial. This gate’s only purpose was the respect towards the dead and open for those occasions only. Henceforth the name, the gate of the dead.
East Gate: Victory Gate (Tvea Jei)
This passageway is also facing east parallel to the gate of the dead. This placement was necessary because the direction of the east represents Joy, happiness, and peace. When you make your way north from Bayon temple, there will be a right turn for the victory gate. In opposition to the left is the Terrace of the elephants, perfect placement to compliment the purpose of this very gate. As you already have guessed, the name stands out for itself. The king, generals, cavalries and the army would enter using this gate from victorious battles and wars. Then came the name Victory gate. Welcomed and settled by the clear field at the Terrace of the elephants from the return of the tiring wars.
Strangely enough, to present-day, the gate and the bridge seems to stand tallest and strongest than the rest. There was even a stone tapestry engraved on top of the doorway of a brawny general on a large horse. If you excited to see this one, you will definitely get to see it during your tour. You won’t be able to miss this because it has become a regular drive through now. The majestic abstracts of the thick forest and river are not very well highlighted in this part of the city. All that remains are dried up soils, fallen dead leaves and a lot of the tree barks.
North Gate: Dei Chhnang
The north gate has the most insightful truth and intriguing use to it than most. It opened to priests, parades of gifts and intellects for the wise king in means of persuasion and negotiation. Negotiate to rehabilitate sentenced inmates or any wrongdoers captured within the capitals. In the hope of educating them, in the hope of lessening their punishments. The priests would trade the king’s permission with their moral reasoning. This conduct brought criminals second chances, hope and freedom to reunite themselves with their own values and self-conscience. The name Dei Chhnang was placed upon it, not because of the moral salvations brought to the criminal.
The name came when the local people of the later generation discovered the location as the rich source of clay. The resource of the land produced tools, pots, and plates for the people in the nearby area. That attention gave the gate its resemblance name Dei Chhnang, which translated to Clay (Dei), pot (Chhnang). The state of conditions of this gate is well and tall, just as firm as the other mainly used ones. Hides deep behind corridors of trees, underneath the depth of woods, far outreach from your field of vision. The bridge paves the outer path sturdy and strong with its enormous life-size structure, complimenting the open field of the dried river.
West Gate: Takaov gate
The western gate attained a very different purpose, that is execution. No one really knows how exactly this name came to be, only the tale behind the gates among all five. As the story goes, criminals who committed treason or unforgivable acts in the capital area would receive death sentences. The last gate idles behind Angkor Thom would be the graveyard and the last sight of life of the criminal. Bound by ropes and chain and sided by two guards. Through the center of the exit, out goes to the open dirt to dig up their own grave before the execution.
Buried by stone, rocks or earth where the difference of choice of their burial. Rest at the end of the pavement of the red soil, stands a very old rampart structure of the Temple, Takaov. The scenery of this gate so far is the most eroding and decaying. The bridge of the Churning of the sea of milk replaces with trees, roots, grassland, and dust from the red soil of the main road. The structure reinforces with wooden columns, wire binds the faces from falling off of each other. Roots of trees stretch across covering the outer view creating a very ancient atmosphere of ruins. All surrounded by boulders, fallen figures and the powerful trees of nature.
Guarding the magnificent Bayon temple, the Great gates were identically built to serve as the ramparts of the city of Angkor Thom. As time and tale go by their state of age favor them radically different. It is sensible that you might make it to all 5 of them but you must not miss out on the East and the West. The two spots have the richest journey experience of the ruins that lasted through centuries. Embark on a spectrum of the discovery of the underrated locations of Siem Reap greatest landmarks. However, Angkor Thom gates will trigger a unique time-traveling experience. Better yet, if you are a very athletic individual with great endurance, there is a biking trail for you to explore the whole round of the gates.
The high ground trails fill with a wonderful scenic view on one side that blends with the crescent woods on the other. Listen to the breaking branches, feel the chilling wind of the deep woods, biking on the world of Angkor Thom gates. The experience will become one of your best possibilities. However, you are not as excited with the athletic requirements, a motorcycle is your alternate option. But you cannot get them up on top for the experience of the biking trails. Think lively now because I can assure you that only half a round trip by bike, it will still worth your while. Tuk-tuk can take care of the rest if you happen to give out any point of the gateway.