Prasat Bayon is the main temple of Angkor Thom, and is situated right in the center of the ancient city. As I walk to the temple, the guards at the entrance check my pass. I notice a lot of japanese tourists here, some with their faces covered in hygiene masks. Our guide explains that the temple’s conservation is being carried out by the japanese government. Built between the 12th & 13th century as the official state temple of the king Jayavarman VII, the Bayon was later modified and augmented by Hindu and Theravada Buddhist kings in accordance with their own religious preferences. It’s most distinctive feature is the countless massive stone heads on the upper terrace, which form a pyramid.
The four-sided head, like the Hindu god Brahma, is believed to be a combination of the smiling face of Jayavarman and the meditative face of Buddha. The Bayon head is the most popular souvenir and painting, after Angkor Wat.
As our guide talks about the history and construction of the temple, something catches my eye…a monk in his orange robe in contrast to the blackened temple and the blue sky. It’s a beautiful picture. There are some monks posing and some taking photos of other monks with tourists. I wonder how excited or peaceful they felt after visiting the temple.
There are countless faces of Bayon everywhere you look at the upper terrace, all carved in stone. There are inscriptions and carvings on the walls of the temple about general life in the Khmer empire, their battles and dancing apsaras. At some places the pillars of the outer alley stand alone without a ceiling to support.
The battle scenes carved on the walls shows the distinctive facial features of the cambodian army and cham forces. Our guide explains, the ones with long ears are cambodian and the ones with the pointy beard are the cham. At the temple’s exit, is a buddha statue decorated with lotus buds, and where the locals still burn incense.
Our guide takes us to another spot for a beautiful picture of the Bayon reflecting in a small lake, as he notices my interest in photography. It is a pretty picture with the pyramid of the countless heads of Bayon shining in the water in a mirror image. The surface of the water is so calm, that it looks like an illusion, till someone throws a stone. And then another few feet, another spot, the same illusion but this time with white geese in the foreground! It’s just gets prettier! The bright blue sky with the fresh green from the leaves of the forest, my favorite color combination.