The Terrace of the Elephants is a striking 350-metre-long and 2.5-metre-high ornamental wall which, as the name suggests, is mostly decorated with carved elephants. It was built in the late-12th century as a view platform, from which King Jayavarman VII viewed his victorious returning army. It was once attached to the royal palace of Phimeanakas, right at the heart of the ancient Khmer capital city of Angkor Thom.
While much of the original structure has long since rotted and collapsed, the terrace itself has survived relatively intact, and the carvings along its length are still quite clear. The north part of the wall contains a number of especially fine sculptures, which include a five headed horse and garudas (bird-like humanoid creatures from Hindu and Buddhist mythology) as well as dancers and warriors. At the very northern end is the Terrace of the Leper King, also built under the rule of Jayavarman VII.
The Terrace of the Elephants faces east, so the best lighting for photography is before noon. Interesting and photo-worthy features include the five outworks along its length, where the elephant sculptures jut out to become 3D, instead of the mostly 2D format they use along the rest of the wall.
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Terrace of the Elephants
Location: Central Angkor Thom, east of the Royal Palace
Construction period: Late 12th century C.E.
Built by: Jayavarman VII, and extended by a later king
Building Style: Bayon
Photography: Lighting is best in the morning hours