Secret Angkor Temples: Baphuon, Terrace of Elephants, Phimeanakas

Baphuon Temple is one of the best temples in the ancient city of Angkor. Why is Baphuon one of the best? The reason is because it less famous than the better known temples. Fortunately, it hasn’t been in any Hollywood movies and most tourists have not heard about it. As a result, visitors can enjoy the most pristine temple ruins in secluded surroundings.

Hinduism and Buddhism

The 11th century Hindu design of Baphuon Temple was dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva. As a result, the temple design features 3 tiered architecture that is symbolic of Mt Meru.

Baphuon Temple
View from the front of Baphuon Temple in Angkor, Cambodia.

However, the Khmer Empire converted to converted to Buddhism in the late 15th century. Therefore, the temple features a very prominent statue of the reclining Buddha. Additionally, modern day Cambodia has retained its Buddhist roots and 95% of the population adheres to Buddhism.

After completion, the Baphuon temple drew acclaim from foreign dignitaries such as the 13th century envoy for the Yuan Dynasty named Chou Ta-kuan. During his visit between 1296 to 1297 he remarked:

“the Tower of Bronze…a truly astonishing spectacle, with more than ten chambers at its base”.

-Wikipedia

Indeed, from the top of the temple complex, the view is rather extraordinary. 

Entrance to Baphuon Temple
The photo below is a taken from the top of the Baphuon Temple and illustrates the length of the pathway.
2nd Tier Baphuon Temple
From the platform on the second tier, the stairway on the left leads to the top of the temple complex for an extraordinary view.

Baphuon Temple Eastern Orientation

The approach to the temple is rather extraordinary and features an elevated pathway that is several hundred meters long. Predictably, the orientation of Baphuon is towards the east which is a familiar feature of Hindu temples.

Elevated walkway to Baphuon Temple.
My friend sitting on the walkway.

The Khmer Empire converted to Buddhism in the 15th century. As a result, a large reclining Buddha was constructed on the western side of the second level. In total, the statue measured 9 meters tall and 70 meters in length. Unfortunately, the reclining Buddha has fallen into disrepair however, it still is an amazing feature.

Reclining Buddha statue
Large reclining Buddha statue featured on the second tier.

Indeed, Cambodia experienced severe chaos and destruction due to the collateral damage from the Vietnam War. As a result, during the 1970s, many of the restoration projects which were in progress were abandoned.

Buddhism has survived since it’s introduction to Cambodia and it has also prevailed through the oppression of the 1970s. 

Buddhist Monk at Baphuon
Buddhist monk sits on the 2nd tier of Baphuon Temple in Angkor.

Terrace of Elephants

King Jayavarman VII used the Terrace of Elephants to review his marching troops as they returned from victory. The King’s army must have been very large because the terrace stretched for 350 meters. Additionally, the terrace was named after the elephant carvings on its eastern face.

Terrace of Elephants
Photo featuring the entire length of the Elephant Terrace in Angkor Cambodia.
Elephant Terrace

Phimeanakas

The Phimeanakas is located adjacent to the Terrace of Elephants. Therefore, it is easily accessible from both the Elephant Terrace and Baphuon. Unfortunately, the construction materials used for Phimeanakas Palace was mostly organic material. As a result, it has long since decomposed. However, the foundation of the palace can still be explored.

Phimeanakas

Enjoy Secluded Baphuon Temple at Angkor

When you visit Angkor the road less traveled is certainly worth exploring. Alternatively speaking, Baphuon Temple, Terrace of Elephants and Phimeanakas are several of the many rewarding attractions to enjoy while everybody is busy ogling Angkor Wat. Especially Baphuon temple, this temple is amazing and easily overlooked.

Additional resources:

http://www.tourismcambodia.com/attractions/angkor/baphuon.htm