Bayon Temple at Angkor Thom

When I first visited the Temples of Angkor back in 2008 I was totally fixated on Angkor Wat.  Little did I know at the time just how impressive the Temples of Angkor are in their entirety.  One of the temples that caught my attention immediately was the well-known and richly decorated Prasat Bayon.  With its plethora of stone cold smiling faces, this early 13th century looms large at the centre of Buddhist King Jayavarman VII empire – the once former capital of Angkor Thom.

The massive stone faces (equally as impressive both at a distant and from close proximity) dominate the complex.  When I first came back in 2008, I was able to explore Bayon without hardly noticing a single other soul along the way.  These days, it’s one of the main draws for package tourists and the only way to have it mostly to yourself is to haul yourself out of bed very early in the morning (5 am start is recommended) while most of the tour buses are parked outside Angkor Wat for sunrise.

Bayon is also noted for its formidable sets of bas-reliefs carvings which represent a host of different scenes and interpretations ranging from historical to mythological.

My second favorite ruined temple complex in the walled city of Angkor Thom is the imposing Terrace of the Elephants.  Once used as the terrace / platform from which to observe king Jayavarman’s triumphant victorious army, the sheer sense of scale of this 350 meter long massive wall is only appreciated by walking along beside it.  The wall is richly decorated by elephants that are more distinct to the eye from a distance than they are up close.

Although the days of having Angkor Thom – specifically Bayon and Terrace of the Elephant temples – to yourself is long gone, it’s still one of the most impressive complex areas in all of Angkor and a place I highly recommend taking your time to thoroughly explore.  This following is a photo essay and travel video from my time visiting Angkor Thom:

The stone cold smiles of Bayon are one of the most impressive temples I visited in all of Angkor.

The stone cold smiles of Bayon are one of the most impressive temples I visited in all of Angkor.

Massive stone face smile up close at Bayon, Angkor Thom.

Massive stone face smile up close at Bayon, Angkor Thom.

Depending on what time of day and/or the weather conditions really adds a different perspective to the faces.
Depending on what time of day and/or the weather conditions really adds a different perspective to the faces.

Traditional Khmer dances wearing elaborate costumes greet tourists at Bayon.

 

Traditional Khmer dances wearing elaborate costumes greet tourists at Bayon.

An below perspective of the bas-relief sculpture at Bayon, Angkor Thom.

A low angle perspective shot of the bas-relief sculpture at Bayon, Angkor Thom.

A far away vantage point angle of tourists climbing up the many steps to reach the top of Bayon.

A far away vantage point angle of tourists climbing up the many steps to reach the top of Bayon.

I once read that the faces of Bayon were meant to resemble the King.

I once read that the faces of Bayon were meant to resemble the King.

The most fascinating aspect of Bayon, in my opinion, were the areas of the temple that you couldn't climb near the top.

The most fascinating aspect of Bayon, in my opinion, were the areas of the temple that you couldn’t climb near the top.

The Terrace of Elephants along Angkor Thom.

The Terrace of Elephants along Angkor Thom.

Another shot of the faces of Bayon with shadows and highlights.

Another shot of the faces of Bayon with shadows and highlights.

These statues lined the bridge leading up to Angkor Thom.

These statues lined the bridge leading up to Angkor Thom.

A group photo of the dancers wearing their costumes and posing for the shot.

A group photo of the dancers wearing their costumes and posing for the shot.

A closer up shot of the Terrace of Elephants.

A closer up shot of the Terrace of Elephants.

Another shot of the statues at a different time of day.

Another shot of the statues at a different time of day.

One more shot of the Terrace of Elephants wall - Angkor Thom, Cambodia.
One more shot of the Terrace of Elephants wall – Angkor Thom, Cambodia.

Our travel video from Bayon, Angkor Thom


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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Alyson April 18, 2013 at 7:11 am

BEAUTIFUL photographs! Stop me in my tracks awesome, well done. I’ve been, I’m going again soon, I’ll really work on my photography this time!

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Samuel April 20, 2013 at 8:02 pm

Thanks Alyson, looking forward to seeing how you capture the beauty of this wonderful temple :)

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Anisha 'A Niche World' April 18, 2013 at 7:41 am

Beautiful images that encourage me to visit x

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Samuel April 20, 2013 at 8:08 pm

Thank you Anisha! That’s the nicest compliment anyone could say to me :)

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Lori Barber April 18, 2013 at 9:06 am

Great photos! We visited in February and loved exploring the temples. (There are photos on our travel blog too.)

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Samuel April 20, 2013 at 8:12 pm

Thanks Lori! I think you likely experienced much nicer weather than we just did ;)

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memographer April 18, 2013 at 4:47 pm

This is crazy! Do they still crush the statues? Talking about the new heads on the sides of the bridge…

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Samuel April 20, 2013 at 8:14 pm

Wow! I have no idea if they still do that.

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memographer April 20, 2013 at 8:25 pm

It seems like they do. The front heads on the bridge are newly produced, and they have been damaged… I guess by some local vandals

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zoomingjapan April 19, 2013 at 1:42 am

So many wonderful photos.
You really make me want to go there!

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Samuel April 20, 2013 at 8:17 pm

Thank you very much! I sure hope you can go there soon :)

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Arti April 19, 2013 at 3:11 am

What a beautiful place. I have heard of it so much. Hope I visit it someday in the future. Thanks for sharing the pictures :)

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Samuel April 20, 2013 at 8:19 pm

Thanks Arti! It’s definitely a must see temple when visiting Angkor :)

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Ryan April 19, 2013 at 7:39 am

I’ve been to Angkor three times, in 2001, 2005, and 2010. It definitely gets more and more crowded every year, but I agree that the Bayon still has it’s appeal. It’s one of my favorites. In fact, if I go back to Angkor for a 4th time, I’ll definitely be stopping at the Bayon for some photos (and doing my best to pick a time of day with minimal crowds…. I think noon or 1pm when it’s hot and most people are eating lunch is also a pretty good time to be there).

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Samuel May 3, 2013 at 7:30 am

I have to agree, I’ve noticed more and more crowds as the years have gone by. More people are discovering this not so hidden gem. :)

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apol April 22, 2013 at 6:14 am

Curious, did you like Bayon more than Angkor Wat?

This was the last temple we visited last week and this was my favorite!
Stayed here to finish off the temple visits, and this was the only temple that left me longing to stay longer.

Lots of corners where one can take a rest too.

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Samuel May 3, 2013 at 7:28 am

They are each different in their own way, but I really liked the faces of Bayon. :)

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Sam @ Travellingking.com May 6, 2013 at 7:56 am

Incredible photos! Really reminds me of our trip to Ayutthaya just outside Bangkok last year. Beautiful and amazing architecture!

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Barbara May 6, 2013 at 4:29 pm

Beautiful photography! Really inspiring, makes we want to pack my bags and my camera right now! Thanks for putting another place on my to do list :)

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Sista Voyage June 13, 2013 at 2:13 am

Sigh, looking at those pictures makes me sad because I was supposed to visit Cambodia last year with a co-worker who’s from there, but she never updated me on the trip. Your pictures make up for it though :)

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Nicole @ Green Global Travel June 21, 2013 at 12:33 pm

Just incredible photography! We plan on visiting Asia next year and this place is now on the list (the list is getting pretty long).

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Samuel Jeffery June 23, 2013 at 1:22 pm

Thanks Nicole, definitely it would be worth while visiting the Temples of Angkor in Siem Reap if at all possible :)

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Ria Dancel July 18, 2013 at 11:34 am

The photos here seem to invite me to visit the country in the near future. :)

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