Preah Palilay (pronounced "Palelaai", stressed on the last syllable) is a picturesque monument in a delightful, shaded forest setting. It is located only 500 metres behind the Leper King terrace at the Angkor Thom main car park. For of a number of attractive features it is well worth a visit when exploring the area of the nearby Royal Palace.
The central sandstone Prasat is unadorned. It is in a rough condition and must not be entered. Its roof is ecxeptionally steep and tall, reaching a total height of 19 metres. The small temple mound is covered with stone blocks. Three trees on its south slope had to be cut at the begin of our century. Only their trunks remain. But young branches already shoot again. Two more jungletemple-trees are rooted on the northern steps.
The East Gopura displays some typical Buddhist carvings, scenes from Buddha's life, Buddha sitting on a lotus throne receiving the hommage of praying figures, and the “donation of forest animals”. In front of it there is a typical entrance cross-shaped terrace, 33 metres long, flanked by crowned seven-headed Naga serpents which are in a fair condition. A large sitting Buddha on a lotus, protected by a wooden canopy, is a modern addition.
The date of Preah Palilay's construction is a matter of some debate. Traditionally it is ascribed to the famous Mayana Buddhist ruler Jayavarman VII (Bayon style). But the Theravada Buddhist themes of some carvings and some architectural features suggest a construction date in the late 13th or even in the 14th century. In this case Preah Palilay would be the latest Angkor monument and the only one from the dawning Theravada era in Cambodia which is lasting till the present day. Certainly, the Prasat on the top was rebuilt and modified in the post-Bayon period. Those later Theravada-Buddhist works could be restorations, too, after the original Bayon-style temple was severely damaged be the vandalizing Hindu reaction in the second half of the 13th century.
Late morning hours are a good time to visit Preah Palilay. The Angkor ticket will not be checked here, but you should have one when visiting Angkor Thom.