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Bakong Temple, Siem Reap Overview

Bakong is a popular Angkorian temple-mountain located in the Rolous area close to Siem Reap city in Cambodia. It is the first temple mountain or step pyramid structure of the Khmer period, dedicated to Hindu God Shiva. The largest of all the temples in Rolous, this ancient monument is famous for its unique five-tier central pyramids, eight intricately carved temple towers and bas-reliefs depicting the architectural brilliance of the Khmer period. It is one of the top Angkorian ruins visited by travelers exploring Siem Reap.

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Best time to visit

The best time to explore the complex is during the early morning or late afternoon when the weather is relatively pleasant.

Ticket details

The entrance fee for admission to the Bakong temple is included with the temple pass for central Angkor.  Foreigners are required to buy an admission pass, called the Angkor pass, which can only be purchased at the official ticket centre, located 4 kilometres away from Siem Reap town. It is open from 5:00 AM to 5:30 PM every day. The entrance ticket can be purchased either by cash (US Dollars, Cambodian Riel, Thai Baht or Euro) or by credit card. Tickets issued after 5:00 PM are only valid from the next day.

There are three types of admission passes available, depending on the number of entries:

1-Day: USD 37 for a day pass

3-Days: USD 62 valid for ten days

7-Days: USD 72 valid for one month

What to wear

As with the other temples in Siem Reap, it is expected that tourists dress appropriately. Women need to cover their shoulder at all times and wear knee-length attire. Sleeveless shirts and shorts aren't also allowed for both men and women. The rules are strictly followed, and you might be denied entry by the guards if you fail to obey them.

Bakong History & Significance

Bakong temple was built by King King Indravarman I in the early 9th century decades after the previous emperor established his capital in the ancient city of Hariharalaya. One of the first structures to be constructed out of sandstone, it served as a prototype for temple-mountains built during the later period of the Khmer empire. It functioned as a state temple with the sanatorium dedicated to Lord Shiva.

Architectural Influence

Bakong temple resembles closely with the Borobudur temple in Java, Indonesia. Since the king moved from there to establish the Khmer empire here, it is believed that the architecture got inspired to replicate. Historians believe that the architecture of the Bakong temple largely influenced Angkor Wat, the most monumental structure of the Khmer empire. There is extensive use of sandstone, elaborately carved columns, bas-reliefs and grandly decorated temple tiers are present.  Also, the exterior patterns of including large outer enclosures surrounded by moats and causeways with Naga heads all bear striking similarities. And these are not only found in Angkor Wat but the other structures with the Angkor Archaeological Park, making Bakong a highly influential and a prominent landmark of the Khmer period.

Bakong Architecture

A more massive outer moat surrounded the Bakong within which was another smaller moat, ruins of which are visible today.  Passing through the second moat is the causeway leading to the entrance, which consists of two seven-headed Nagas.

There are ruins of four entrance gates or the Gopurams at the four cardinal points, in the inner enclosure. It also comprises of two small temples beside the main complex, along with six other structures, all of which are in ruins. There are three different structures as well, which used to function as the temple's official buildings. 

Within the central temple structure, the most noticeable elements are the eight brick towers on platforms encircling the main temple-mountain. These symmetrically arranged towers are dedicated to the eight aspects of Lord Shiva. Here one can observe the intricately decorated lintels and sandstone columns. 

The central temple-mountain structure has four Lion statues, and statues of Elephants, both symbolising protection against the enemy forces — the steps on which these statues are built further lead to the five tiers of the pyramid structure. The pyramid structure of the temple-mountain rows consists of five levels, all representing different aspects of the Hindu Mythology around Mount Meru.  Nagas, Garudas, Demons, Spirits and Gods symbolise these five tiers from the bottom to the top order. 

The fourth tier in the pyramid consists of twelve small towers made of sandstone which previously housed the sacred Lingas. Only the outer parts of the tower remain now. You can also see many bas-reliefs in this and the uppermost tiers, which depict the mythological scenes, accounts of kings, and everyday life details of the Khmer people. The intricate carvings documenting the Khmer life resemble the ones seen in other Angkorian temples built during the later period.

How To Reach Bakong Temple

Bakong temple is located 45 minutes away from Siem Reap downtown. The best way to reach is to hire a Tuk-Tuk for 5 USD one way that can be shared or rent a motorbike at about 9 to 10 USD per day. You can combine a visit to Bakong with other temples in the Rolous circuit.

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