Phimeanakas & The Royal Enclosure

Aerial Palace

Rajendravarman 2nd
941 - 968
1. The ponds
2. The low gallery
3. The steep stairs
Phimeanakas is another temple mountain within Angkor Thom gates. This temple, however, is surrounded by its own 5 meter high walls. It also has two ponds at the back of the temple, and they were used for ritual washings.

In the old days, the area was where the Royal Palace was located, and Phimeanakas was the temple where the king worshipped the gods. 

Audio tour of Phimeanakas

Compared to Baphuon just next door, this mountain temple is a rather small. But Zhou Da Guan, a Chinese ambassador who visited Angkor in 1300s, described the temple as the Tower of Gold. So back then, the temple must have been covered with a golden top.

Phimeanakas - From the Pond
The temple from the pond side

This Golden Tower is where the King must sleep with the 9 headed Naga serpents, who appeared to him as a woman. If he missed just one night, he would die. Well, at least that’s what legend told us.

As it is with mountain temples, the visit won’t be ‘complete’ unless you climb up to the very top. At Phimeanakas however, the stairs’ condition is terrible. Plus it’s also very steep.

Phimeanakas - Steep stairs
Steep stairs, but there's a railing

Luckily, there is a narrow wooden stairs with a railing to make the climbing much easier, and relatively safer. But still, the stairs is very narrow, and the width is enough just for one person. This means there could be lines when you want to climb up the temple, since you can go only one direction at a time: up or down.

When you reach the top of the temple, try walking inside the side hallways. They somehow made it small and cramped, with the roof so low that a tall person won’t be able to walk in there. You can also see the ponds through the many open windows, although huge tall trees covered the view partially.

Phimeanakas - Hallways
The low ceilings on the hallways

Phimeanakas - Pond from the top
The pond seen from up top

There are two ponds at this temple, and the smaller one is called Srah Srei (Women’s Bath). There are also some carvings on the insides of the pond, of crocodiles and other marine animals. Even though back then this was the place for ritual washing, today it looks like the pond is used by public for fishing and swimming.
Phimeanakas - Ponds up close
The royal baths used for fishing and swimming

Although the temple itself is small, the large overall area and the enclosing walls reminds you what a great place this must’ve been in the past. With the Terrace of the Leper King and the Elephant Terrace at the front side of Phimeanakas, how can you not?

Windows of the temple

Where would you like to go next?

Go to the next Angkor Thom temple: The Elephant Terrace.

Return to Angkor Thom temples, for a list of other sites that you can easily visit.

Return from Phimeanakas to Holiday in Angkor Wat (homepage)

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