World Travel GuidesUNESCO World Heritage Site Phimeanakas Temple, Angkor

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Phimeanakas is a rather odd-looking step pyramid located within the
Royal Palace compound. The name means "aerial palace". From the Baphuon, you enter the Royal Palace through the South Gopura (entrance) and see Phimeanakas, the tallest scalable temple in Angkor Thom.

Phimeanakas is the royal temple where the king worshipped. It originally had a golden pinnacle. When the Chinese envoy Zhou Daguan visited Angkor in the 13th century, he noted that the Phimeanakas was called the Tower of Gold. Although small compared to other Angkor structures, it fits its site.

I visited Phimeanakas with my wife at around midday. By then the stones were burning hot when we climbed up. It was a tough climb going up, and tougher still coming down, especially for me, with a big tripod and a huge camera bag carrying a number of lenses and camera bodies. Luckily fellow tourists helped me otherwise I would have a very difficult time coming down. From far it appeared small ... till you climbed it.

Visitors gingerly descending from Phimeanakas

Phimeanakas was started by King Rajendravarman II, but subsequent kings made alterations to it. This is the temple that is associated with the legend, as told by Zhou Daguan, where a serpent-spirit would take the form of a woman, and all Angkor kings must sleep with her every night in the tower before he could join his wives and concubines.

According to the legend, the golden tower crowning the top of this temple was inhabited by a naga (serpent) which would transform into a woman. If the king missed even one night, great calamity would befall the nation, and he would die. It is in all likelihood a myth told to Zhou Daguan by the Chinese population of Angkor, and is not a widespread belief of the Khmer people in general.

Construction Details

Built in the 10th Century
by King Rajendravarman II (reigned circa 941-968)

How to reach Phimeanakas

Phimeanakas is located within the grounds of the Royal Palace, which is located within Angkor Thom, about 200 meters directly north of the Baphuon, from where you enter the Royal Palace compound through a gopura in the southern enclosure wall. You would not fail to locate Phimeanakas upon entering the Royal Palace, as it is the tallest pyramid within the royal enclosure.

If you are travelling on a packaged tour, then your itinerary is more or less decided, as is the amount of time in your hands to explore the grounds. However, if you are travelling independently, then the best option is to hire a tuk tuk. Ask him to wait for you at the food stalls opposite the Baphuon while you go and explore the sites.

Coming down Phimeanakas at Angkor Thom.

View from Phimeanakas.

View from Phimeanakas.

Tim at Phimeanakas.

Return to Angkor UNESCO World Heritage Site
Angkor Travel Tips or to Cambodia Travel Guide

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