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The journey took just under 5 minutes to reach Bayon. Even from afar, Bayon looks awesome to me! This must be a very interesting visit, I thought to myself.
The Bayon is a well-known and richly decorated Khmer temple at Angkor in Cambodia. Built in the late 12th century or early 13th century as the official state temple of the Mahayana Buddhist King Jayavarman VII, the Bayon stands at the centre of Jayavarman’s capital, Angkor Thom.
The Bayon’s most distinctive feature is the multitude of serene and massive stone faces on the many towers which jut out from the upper terrace and cluster around its central peak.
The temple is known also for two impressive sets of bas-reliefs, which present an unusual combination of mythological, historical, and mundane scenes. The main current conservatory body, the JSA, has described the temple as “the most striking expression of the ‘baroque’ style” of Khmer architecture, as contrasted with the ‘classical’ style of Angkor Wat. [Source]
Hmmm, I don’t know where to actually start describing about this great temple, so if you understand what I’m trying to say at the end of this post, then congrats. Else, read from start to end again lar. Hahaha.
Ok ok, back to story. Apparently, this temple is undergoing restoration process by experts from Japan under this Japanese Government Team for Safeguarding of Angkor (JSA). The duration of this restoration process will take 5 years and it’s going into 2nd year now.
As John shared his story about the complex with us, I did not waste time and started to snap around. Too bad, there were loads of tourists cramping the complex which sometimes blocked the view that I wanted.
After a rather lengthy talk by John, we proceeded slowly to the outer gallery, which features a series of bas-reliefs.
The outer wall of the outer gallery features a series of bas-reliefs depicting historical events and scenes from the everyday life of the Angkorian Khmer. Though highly detailed and informative in themselves, the bas-reliefs are not accompanied by any sort of epigraphic text, and for that reason considerable uncertainty remains as to which historical events are portrayed and how, if at all, the different reliefs are related. [Source]
I didn’t really pay much attention as I seek refuge under some shades because the weather was too hot. It was just some precautionary measures to ensure that I really recovered from fever. Anyway, John did a good job in telling us the story behind each carving and why it happened. I think if you are a historian, you will definitely love this place.
We proceeded to the inner gallery which shows the real character of Bayon complex. It is really a massive complex and the view is superb!
As you can see from the above photo, there are many impressive face-towers all over the complex.
The inner gallery is raised above ground level and has doubled corners, with the original redented cross-shape later filled out to a square. Its bas-reliefs, later additions of Jayavarman VIII, are in stark contrast to those of the outer: rather than set-piece battles and processions, the smaller canvases offered by the inner gallery are decorated for the most part with scenes from Hindu mythology. [Source]
This was where the real “adventure” began. The fact that the inner gallery is lighted up with only natural light didn’t help us much. It was quite dark along the pathway, and lots of uneven stairs too. I did not follow the group as I was caught up with some photo-taking of the Bayon. Ended up I missed out all the explanations by John.
More impressive photos of Bayon taken from inner gallery.. I just couldn’t resist from posting them here!
This thing is called linga.
It was impossible for us to explore the entire Bayon complex as it will take hours. We then climbed up to the upper terrace from one of the entrances in inner gallery.
Look out as the stairs are steep and narrow!
The upper terrace is home to the famous “face towers” of the Bayon, each of which supports two, three or (most commonly) four gigantic smiling faces. In addition to the mass of the central tower, smaller towers are located along the inner gallery (at the corners and entrances), and on chapels on the upper terrace. [Source]
The upper terrace provides a completely different view of Bayon. In short, it’s breathtaking!
At one point, the temple was host to 49 such towers; now only 37 remain. The number of faces is approximately 200, but since some are only partially preserved there can be no definitive count. [Source]
To compare Bayon with other temples is a bit unfair as each stands out on its own. By far, this is the most impressive temple I’ve ever seen. The structure, design, architecture and the face-towers are so amazing. I’m glad that I made it here to be part of the history.
We spent quite some time at the upper terrace relaxing and taking photos around.
We left for another temple after spending almost 2 hours admiring the grand temple of Angkor Thom. Bayon has indeed left a lasting impression in our hearts.
Next.. brief stops at Bapuon, Phimeanakas and Terrace of the Elephants