One of the places I most wanted to see in Siem Reap was of course Bayon!!! How could I not when it is such a gorgeous remnant of thousands of years ago… and I am one of those who love mythical and medieval history best…
And so I was at the Bayon the second thing right after my visit to Angkor Wat…which I did not quite complete going around because of some confusion, probably on my part…. huhuhu.. so let me share with you my visit to Bayon….
Angkor Thom was built as a huge square city, the sides of which run exactly north to south and east to west. Standing in the exact center of the walled city, Bayon Temple represents the intersection of heaven and earth.
When I was there I was approached by one of the youths there who offered himself as a tour guide /photographer. They do this to get some money, so if you can afford it, why not… because they are pretty much quite helpful.. my self appointed guide brought me all around Bayon up fascinating places and showed me where the best photography sites were…
I just paid him USD5 (about RM18) for his efforts after arguing with him a bit for his time (just about 45 minutes).. they would of course like to be paid USD10 or so but if I had to pay USD 10 for every tour in each temple – yeah, there are all these youths around who try to appoint themselves as your tour guide /photographer in all the big temples.. I would be broke by then, considering I am traveling on a shoe string budget…
Bayon was the state temple of Jayavarman VII, a great and powerful ruler who lived in the late 13th century. Bayon was built to imitate the form of Mt. Meru—the cosmic mountain at the center of the world in Buddhist cosmology, thus based on a ‘yantra’, a symbol used by Tantric Buddhists as the basis of mandala diagrams that represent the layout of the universe.
Bayon is said to be built in honour to a host of gods found throughout the Khmer empire. Its central shrine held an image of Jayavarman VII, who perhaps imagined himself as a god-King ruling in the name of the Buddha.
Bayon is best known for its 216 gargantuan stone smiling faces of Avalokiteshvara that also bears a resemblance to the great king himself, with one facing outward and keeping watch at each compass point. Some people referred to these faces as the “Mona Lisa of Southeast Asia.” And of course, why not with all those very mysterious smile (some benevolent, some seemingly mocking, some peaceful..ok… just my imagination)…. There is said to be about 51 smaller towers surrounding Bayon, each with four faces of its own.
Bayon Temple is surrounded by two long walls bearing an extraordinary collection of bas-relief scenes of legendary and historical events. In all, there are are total of more than 11,000 carved figures over 1.2km of wall. They were probably originally painted and gilded, but this has long since faded.
The eastward orientation of Bayon leads most people to visit early in the morning, just like how I did, and it is indeed a breathtaking sight.
However, it has been said that the Bayon looks just as amazing in the evening, so you can also try visiting here in the evening….
How to get there: Just pay a tuk tuk to bring you around… you can rent a tuk tuk for the duration of your stay as I did for about USD20 per day , and have the driver all to yourself -and he will wait for you every where you go or just get a single ride here and there….