The remains of the Khmers' last great city, Angkor Thom, stand just north of Angkor Wat, enclosed by massive laterite walls and a broad moat. From its centre soars the central sanctuary tower of the mighty Bayon temple, which is perhaps best known for the colossal face-towers that adorn it. No one knows for sure who, or what, the smiling faces represent: they may have been images of the emperor himself, or guardian deities.
Also at Angkor Thom is the famous ‘Elephant Terrace’, the plinth of a now disappeared audience hall whose sides are decorated with striking bas-reliefs of parading pachyderms. Jayavarman VI used to sit on this great platform to view his armies returning from victorious battles, such as the one with the Cham dynasty that took place on nearby Tonle Sap Lake in 1177 AD, also featured in the carvings, which are regarded as the finest to have survived from the Khmer era.
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