The Magnificent Ruins of Bayon Temple

The temple with many smiling faces

The Complex of face towers- a popular description of this magnificent temple. Bayon was the third temple on my itinerary of temples in Siem Reap after Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm and one of the most enigmatic and powerful religious constructions in the world. With thumping heart inside my chest, rolling eyeballs, twisted lips, I walk into the complex of the temple that looked nothing more than a pile of ruins from distant and begins to unfold into smiling faces with their broad foreheads, thick nostrils, slightly curving full lips, serene composure and deep set downcast eyes, exuding a strange aura, sneering at me and calming my anxiety down. Am I in a happy land? Yes I am sure it was a happy land once upon a time as each face has a broad smile, Though placid, the mind bending positioning of the faces, seem to make them watch over each other from every angle and there is no avoiding their gaze. Their downcast eyes follow you everywhere and make it especially hard to concentrate on the exquisite carvings. What smiles! Famous for its towers of gigantic smiling faces, this 12th century Khmer temple reflects the creative streak of Cambodia‘s most legendary king, Jayavarman VII

The mesmerising Bayon temple is one of those few places on earth which looks breathtaking at all times of the day. I visited it twice, once after watching sunrise at Angkor Wat around 0730 am and once at 0630 am. You would usually find most of the people visiting Bayon after Angkor Wat sunrise and end up with crowds which makes it very difficult for photography so be there by 0630 to avoid the crowds. There are about 37 towers still standing the tests of time with four faces each. You will find some faces missing on some towers. Once upon a time it had more than 50 towers.

For those into photography, you could lose yourself in this lovely place. Tons of photo moments here and I would recommend you explore your camera here. My plan is to go back here again to fully photograph Angkor Wat temples, this time armed with more interesting lenses, more patience and more time in hand.

You can purchase passes for one, three or seven days.

  • 1 Day = $20 USD
  • 3 Days  = $40 USD and can be used on nonconsecutive days within a week
  • 7 Days = $60 USD and can be used on nonconsecutive days within a month
Also read The Magnificent Ruins of Angkor Wat
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This huge pile of ruins with smiling faces is a symbolic centre of the universe and empire

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Timeless face towers

Dominating the whole arrangement of galleries and terraces are the face-towers, some over the gopuras, others over the corner angles, yet others free standing on the upper terrace. The number of faces are in dispute. Equally, the actual numbers of towers do not have any symbolic significance as many were added later. Their different individual heights combined with the different levels of the temple create the impression of a forest of towers rising towards the centre.

The maze like structure of this temple with no boundary wall makes it even interesting and you walk out with a fascinating experience as the confusing complex with many narrow chambers, corridors, inner closures and stairways reveal occasional surprises of enigmatic faces. This also makes the temple easily accessible from any four directions, the road makes a complete circuit around it.

Also read : The Magnificent temples of Ta Prohm
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The Apsaras or celestial dancers are seen on carvings around the temple. Such detailed works are absolutely amazing for something this old

Bayon is known also for two impressive sets of bas-reliefs, which present an unusual combination of mythological, historical and mundane scenes. All scenes feature events of the civil war. There are eight sections of bas-relief along the gallery of the third enclosure, each of them 35 m long and 3 m high.

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The battle scenes described as Khmer against Cham

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The Bayon temple was built as an expression of genius, and inflated ego of Jayavarman VII, who adopted Mahayana Buddhism, unlike his predecessors who worshipped the Hindu deities of Shiva and Vishnu. This is what sets Bayon apart from the other temples in Angkor.

Also read : Ten photos that will inspire you to plan a trip to Siem Reap-Cambodia

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Buddha Statue at the entrance surrounded by the pillars with dancing Apsra carvings
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This Buddha statue is worshipped by monks inside the temple
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Reclining Buddha in the temple complex

img_1065The complexity of the monument ensures that the play of light changes throughout the day. Early morning and late afternoon can give marvelous and unexpected views of the faces. because of the trees, almost no direct sunlight strikes the Bayon during approximately the first hour after sunrise and the last hour before the sunset.

If you are planning a visit to Siem Reap and Angkor Wat, be sure not to miss Bayon Temple. If you have already visited Angkor Wat? Which was your favorite temple?

11 thoughts on “The Magnificent Ruins of Bayon Temple”

  1. Oh your photos make me miss Cambodia! The way you’ve captured the faces on the temples is wonderful. I’m so desperate to go back to Cambodia to explore the temples more. One day was simply not enough in Siam Reap.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bayon was one of my favorite temples in Angkor and your photos have captured it beautifully. The faces are mesmerizing, and even though they are the same, you can see subtle differences in the expressions – its breathtaking!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Angkor wat temples are so beautiful and incredible. All statues looks so well preserved and well maintained. I think I will fill all my camera memory with pictures. 3 day pass and 7 day pass look like lot of budget friendly option.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wonderfully put together and informative post. I have yet to visit Cambodia, but am hoping to go towards the end of this year. I am totally bookmarking this for my trip – would love to visit the Bayon Temple and marvel at the smiling face towers!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. We totally have to return because last time we went and run through it. So no decent photos nothing! Your photos are making us feel like we are missing out, can’t wait to go back soon!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow, the ruins look absolutely spectacular! I’ve never heard of them before – I guess more people get caught up with Angkor Wat they forget to mention, or visit, these. There are a lot of carvings similar to the battle scenes on temples and ruins in India, and it always makes me wonder how exactly they managed to make such intricate designs “way back when”. People are incredible.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It is an incredible site and some parts are well-preserved. The smiling Buddhas look wonderful. I cannot imagine how they were able to produce these amazing sculptures and carvings. I would love to visit Bayon temple someday.

    Like

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