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.
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.
Traditional Khmer dances wearing elaborate costumes greet tourists at Bayon.
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.
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 Terrace of Elephants along Angkor Thom.
Another shot of the faces of Bayon with shadows and highlights.
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 closer up shot of the Terrace of Elephants.
Another shot of the statues at a different time of day.
One more shot of the Terrace of Elephants wall – Angkor Thom, Cambodia.
Our travel video from Bayon, Angkor Thom