The Victory Gate at the eastern wall of Angkor Thom is in line to the the Royal Palace and to the Elephant Terrace and the Royal Square in front of it. They are in 1.5 km distance from the Victory Gate. Royal Palace and Victory Gate form the “secular axis” of Angkor Thom. All other gateways to Angkor Thom are located at the cardinal points and in line to the state temple in the very centre of the city, Bayon. They form the symmetrical axes of the sacred layout of Angkor Thom. Apart from those cardinal points there is only one more entrance to the city, and this is the Victory Gate, leading to a palace and another sacred centre within it, the Phimeanakas, which seems to have been the focal point of the “first Angkor” already three centuries earlier than Angkor Thom.
The gate is called “Angkor Thom Victory Gate” according to the assumption that it was this gate through which King Jayavarman VII sent his army into battle against Champa, the Khmer empire’s mighty enemy to the east. Parades on the “Victory Avenue” could have been launched at the Royal Square, or ended there. The very same gate may have been the place where the king welcomed his returning victorious warriors, when they entered the capital.
Besides the South Gate and the North Gate, the Victory Gate is one of the gates of Angkor Thom of which the causeway of giants has been restored. Most tourists on sightseeing trips in Angkor will see the Angkor Thom Victory Gate, as the Small Circuit road from the “face-tower temple” Bayon to the “jungle temple” Ta Prohm leaves Angkor Thom to at this gate, not at the East Gate. Some of the visitors on this Small Tour stop for taking a photo of the giant balustrade, which is not as well-preserved as at the South Gate. Many bodies and most heads are missing. The Indra sculptures, sitting on the elephant heads with three trunks in the four inward angles of the outer wall, are in a better condition than at most other Angkor Thom city gates. Even Indra’s magic thunderbolt called Vajra is still visible.
But only very few visitors climb to the top of Angkor Thom’s city walls for a closer view of the Angkor Thom Victory Gate, though it is really worth it. Apart from Angkor Thom’s West Gate, the Angkor Thom Victory Gate offers the best opportunity to take a picture of one of those world-famous monumental Buddhist faces framed by trees. You cannot take this kind of “giant face in the jungle” photo at the much more famous and frequented South Gate of Angkor Thom. Another insider tipp is: Walk along the rampart, only 500 m further south, at the East Gate, you will enjoy such an enigmatic face tower in a perfectly tranquil surrounding, completely undisturbed by busloads of noisy visitors.
The wall is an attraction on its own. In 1177 the invading Chams from the Kingdom of Champa were only challenged by a wooden wall. So Jayavarman VII constructed the stone wall which now remains. It consists of 1 metre square blocks of laterite, stacked 8 metres high on the external and inner walls, and reinforced with earth inside.
Morning hours are perfect to see the causeway of the Angkor Thom Victory Gate. Noon and early afternoon are good times to climb the city wall to see the colossal Buddha face to the south. You should have had the Angkor ticket with you whenever driving along the Small Circuit road, though it will not be checked at the Victory Gate.