The Angkor Royal Enclosure is a walled-off area slightly to the north and west of the centre of Angkor Tom and which housed the palace complex of the Angkor kings. The palace itself was constructed of wood so nothing remains except for said surrounding walls which were constructed out of laterite, the sandstone-clad entrance gopuras and some stone-lined bathing pools. The remains as seen today date from the late 12th-century and the reign of Jayavarman VII but kings going back to at least Suryavarman I are thought to have sited their palaces at, or close by to, this site.
The 2 largest pools, known as the King’s pool and the Queen’s pool, (or ‘baths of the men’ and ‘baths of the women’), still contain water and are lined with laterite and fringed by carved sandstone steps.
The carvings on the south and west sides of the larger of the 2 pools are particularly spectacular being well-preserved and with a wide range of subject matter. It appears sculptors were allowed a bit more free rein to indulge their imaginations here than at some of the actual temples and a variety of water creatures and monsters vie with the ‘standard’ apsaras, garudas and demons.
The lowers step features sea creatures -see pic below with realistic fish and crab images on either side of a sea monster – dragon or lizard-like creature. (A reachisey in Khmer)
The central step or terrace has female figures or deities wearing unusual naga headdresses.
Whilst the upper level is lined with an array of demons and deities, apsaras and garudas.
You’re not allowed to bathe in the pools but it is a lovely tranquil spot to sit and chill-out under the tees and if you’re organized enough you could even picnic there. A walk through the wooded Angkor Royal Enclosure with visits to adjacent Phimeanakas and Preah Palilay temples are included on day 2 of our 3-day Angkor visit. You can find full details of all our Cambodia tour itineraries at this link.