Phnom Bakheng – The temple with a view over Angkor Wat

Phnom Bakheng – The temple with a view over Angkor Wat

Ideal for a short hike in tropical temperatures is Phnom Bakheng. The small mountain near Angkor Thom offers visitors a breathtaking view of the archaeological park upon arrival, including Angkor Wat to the northwest.

Blick auf Angkor Wat vom Phnom Bakheng

View of Angkor Wat from Phnom Bakheng

The name Phnom Bakheng means “central mountain”: very appropriate, as the site was built as a pyramid temple. As a result, from the top of the pyramid (i.e. the fifth level), visitors have a great view of the entire surrounding area, especially the Angkor Thom temple complex. It is especially popular with tourists to watch the sunset from up there, so at these times the crowds to the top are very large. The walk to the top takes about twenty minutes, but alternative means of ascent (such as by elephant) are also available.

Phnom Bakheng was built during the reign of King Yasovarman I around the 9th or 10th century, after he moved the capital of the empire from Roluos to Angkor. This temple was to serve him as a state temple and was dedicated to the deity Shiva, while he had other temples built on the other three hills around Angkor (which at that time still had the name “Yasodharapura”): Phnom Krom, Phnom Bok and Phnom Dei. From Phnom Bakheng, which was 60 meters high and visible from afar, the king could overlook the entire area of the capital (i.e. about four square kilometers): a great advantage that was also appreciated in the 1970s by the Khmer Rouge, who had anchored a strategic base there.

The special thing about the temple complex is that next to the central sanctuary there are 108 towers: the number here is deliberately chosen because the number 108 is considered sacred in Hinduism. According to the transmission, at that time only 33 towers were visible from each point of the temple, which corresponded to the number of gods in Indra’s heaven (another deity, which is primarily attributed to Vedic customs). Today, the towers are only sporadically and rudimentarily preserved. On the top pyramid there are five prasat, which are supposed to symbolize the five peaks of Mount Meru, the world mountain that is at the center of the universe of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain mythology and has five peaks. What makes it special is that this symbolism, found in numerous temples in the region, has been applied here for the first time.

Phnom Bakheng is one of the most formative temples of the region around Siem Reap and should not be missed under any circumstances – especially because of the wonderful sunset.

Travel video from Phnom Bakheng