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.
Visiting Bayon Temple + The Terrace of Elephants
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:
Faces of Bayon: Temples 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.
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Our travel video from Bayon, Angkor Thom
Bayon Temple History
Bayon Temple is an awe-inspiring architectural masterpiece situated in the Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap, Cambodia. It was constructed towards the end of the 12th century under the patronage of King Jayavarman VII, who was a renowned ruler of the Khmer Empire. This temple is particularly renowned for its intricate carvings and impressive stone faces.
Originally built as a Mahayana Buddhist temple, Bayon Temple was later transformed into a Hindu temple. The temple’s construction formed part of a large-scale building initiative led by King Jayavarman VII, who was one of the most influential and powerful kings of his time.
At the heart of the temple lies a majestic stone tower with four faces, each one facing a distinct cardinal direction. These faces are believed to embody the compassionate Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, who holds great significance in Buddhist tradition.
The temple’s walls are adorned with bas-reliefs that illustrate scenes from the Khmer way of life and mythology. Additionally, these bas-reliefs depict the epic battles fought by King Jayavarman VII, who was a prominent military strategist and general.
In contemporary times, Bayon Temple has become one of the most sought-after tourist destinations in Cambodia. Visitors can explore the temple’s numerous galleries and towers, in addition to relishing the breathtaking vistas from the top of the temple. However, tourists are strongly urged to exhibit respect for the temple and its rich cultural legacy, while being cautious not to harm the temple’s delicate stone carvings.
Terrace Of Elephants Wall History
The Terrace of Elephants is a prominent example of Khmer architecture situated in the Angkor Archaeological Park, Siem Reap, Cambodia. This monumental platform, extending 350 meters in length, was erected in the late 12th century under the aegis of King Jayavarman VII, who was a prominent and influential figure in the Khmer Empire.
Initially constructed as a ceremonial podium for public events, the Terrace of Elephants is adorned with elaborately carved elephants, which symbolize the strength and potency of the Khmer Empire. These stone elephants are depicted in various sizes and postures, showcasing their grandeur and magnificence.
Moreover, the Terrace of Elephants is renowned for its outstanding bas-reliefs, which serve as a significant historical record of the Khmer Empire. These bas-reliefs depict various facets of Khmer life and mythology, as well as battles and processions. The bas-reliefs offer a valuable insight into the social, cultural, and political landscape of the Khmer Empire, enriching our understanding of this ancient civilization.
Today, the Terrace of Elephants is a popular tourist destination, attracting visitors from all over the world. This magnificent platform offers visitors an opportunity to experience the rich architectural legacy and cultural heritage of the Khmer Empire. By walking along the platform and observing the intricate carvings and sculptures, visitors can gain a deeper appreciation for the impressive skills of the Khmer architects and sculptors who constructed the Terrace of Elephants.
Despite the passage of time, the Terrace of Elephants has retained its grandeur and splendor, reflecting the Khmer Empire’s lasting legacy. As such, it remains a testament to the skill, creativity, and ingenuity of the Khmer architects and craftsmen who built it, serving as a source of inspiration to future generations.
Angkor Thom History
Angkor Thom is a remarkable archaeological site situated in the Angkor Archaeological Park, in Siem Reap, Cambodia. It was constructed in the late 12th century by King Jayavarman VII, who was a prominent and influential ruler of the Khmer Empire.
Angkor Thom, which means “Great City,” was once the capital of the Khmer Empire and served as a center of political and religious power for several centuries. The city is surrounded by an impressive wall and moat, which served as a defense mechanism against invading armies.
The most striking feature of Angkor Thom is the Bayon Temple, which is located at the center of the city. The temple is renowned for its impressive stone faces, which are believed to embody the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, a deity of great significance in Buddhist tradition. The temple’s bas-reliefs depict scenes from Khmer life and mythology, as well as battles fought by King Jayavarman VII.
Another notable feature of Angkor Thom is the Terrace of the Leper King, which is situated in the northwest corner of the city. The terrace is adorned with elaborate carvings and sculptures that depict various figures and mythological creatures, and is named after a statue of a leper king that was found on the site.
Angkor Thom is a popular tourist destination, attracting visitors from around the world. The site provides a fascinating glimpse into the rich cultural and architectural legacy of the Khmer Empire, and serves as a testament to the impressive skills of the Khmer architects and craftsmen who built it.
Today, visitors can explore the ancient ruins of Angkor Thom, including the Bayon Temple and the Terrace of the Leper King, and marvel at the intricate carvings and sculptures that adorn these structures. By walking through the site’s various temples, palaces, and monuments, visitors can gain a deeper appreciation for the history and culture of Cambodia, and the Khmer Empire’s lasting legacy.
Tips For Visiting Angkor Archaeological Park In Siem Reap
Bayon Temple and the Terrace of Elephants are two of the most impressive structures in the Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap, Cambodia. To make the most of your visit to these sites, it is important to plan ahead and take some basic precautions.
One of the first things to consider when visiting Bayon Temple and the Terrace of Elephants is your clothing. Dress conservatively and wear comfortable shoes, as you will be walking around the temple and terrace for several hours. It is also recommended to wear a hat and sunscreen to protect yourself from the sun.
Another important tip is to plan your visit carefully. The Angkor Archaeological Park is a vast complex, and it can take several days to see everything. Prioritize the sites you want to visit, and plan your itinerary accordingly. Bayon Temple and the Terrace of Elephants can easily be visited in a single day.
Hiring a knowledgeable guide is also a great way to enhance your experience at Bayon Temple and the Terrace of Elephants. A guide can provide insights into the history and significance of the temple and terrace, help you navigate the site, and avoid crowds.
To avoid the crowds, it is also recommended to visit Bayon Temple and the Terrace of Elephants early in the morning or late in the afternoon. These times tend to be less busy, and you can get better photos without too many people in the background.
It is also important to be respectful when visiting Bayon Temple and the Terrace of Elephants. These are sacred sites, and visitors are expected to behave respectfully. Follow the rules and regulations posted on the site, and do not touch or climb on the structures.
Finally, bring water and snacks to keep you hydrated and energized during your visit. The site can be hot and humid, and it is important to stay hydrated to avoid dehydration and heat exhaustion.
By following these tips, you can have a more enjoyable and meaningful experience at Bayon Temple and the Terrace of Elephants.
When Is The Best Time Of Year To Visit Angkor Thom?
The best time of year to visit Angkor Thom is during the dry season, which runs from November to March. During this time, the weather is cooler and drier, and there is less chance of rain. This makes it more comfortable to explore the ancient temples and ruins in the Angkor Archaeological Park.
In addition, the dry season offers better lighting conditions for photography, as the skies tend to be clearer and the sun is not as harsh. This means you can capture stunning shots of the temples and ruins without worrying about the glare from the sun.
However, it is worth noting that the dry season is also the busiest time of year for tourism in Siem Reap, Cambodia. This means that popular sites like Angkor Thom can get crowded, especially during peak tourist season in December and January. If you prefer to avoid the crowds, it may be better to visit during the shoulder season, which runs from April to May and from September to October. During this time, the weather is still relatively dry, but there are fewer visitors.
The rainy season, which runs from June to October, is not recommended for visiting Angkor Thom, as the weather can be very hot and humid, and there is a high chance of rain. The rain can make it difficult to navigate the ancient ruins, and some sites may be closed due to flooding or other weather-related issues.
Where To Stay To Visit Angkor Thom?
When planning a visit to Angkor Thom, choosing the right accommodation can greatly enhance your overall experience. Fortunately, there are many options available in the nearby city of Siem Reap, Cambodia.
One option is to stay within the Angkor Archaeological Park itself. Several hotels and guesthouses are located near the entrance of the park, such as the Angkor Village Resort & Spa, Le Meridien Angkor, and Borei Angkor Resort & Spa. Staying within the park can be convenient, as it allows you to easily access the temples and ruins. Additionally, you can enjoy the tranquility and beauty of the park after the crowds have left.
If you prefer to stay in the city center, there are many hotels and guesthouses to choose from. Siem Reap is a bustling city with a wide range of accommodation options to suit different budgets and preferences. Popular hotels in the city center include Park Hyatt Siem Reap, Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf & Spa Resort, and Prince D’Angkor Hotel & Spa. Staying in the city center can offer easy access to local markets, restaurants, and nightlife.
For those who want a more rural experience, there are several villages near Angkor Thom that offer accommodation options. These villages offer a quieter and more laid-back atmosphere, and some may even offer homestays or guesthouses. Popular villages to stay in include Bakong, Roluos, and Banteay Srei. Staying in these villages can offer a chance to experience the local way of life and culture.
When choosing your accommodation, consider factors such as your budget, preferred location, and amenities. Many hotels and guesthouses offer shuttle services to Angkor Thom, making it easy to get around. By choosing the right accommodation, you can ensure a comfortable and enjoyable visit to Angkor Thom.
Final Thoughts: Visiting Bayon, Terrance of Elephants & Angkor Thom
Visiting Bayon, Terrace of Elephants, and Angkor Thom can be a truly unforgettable experience for travelers interested in history, culture, and architecture. These sites are located within the Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap, Cambodia, and offer a glimpse into the ancient Khmer civilization.
When planning a visit to these sites, it is important to consider the best time to visit, as well as the accommodations that best suit your needs. The dry season, from November to March, is generally considered the best time to visit, as the weather is cooler and drier. However, this is also peak tourist season, so be prepared for crowds and long lines.
To make the most of your visit, consider hiring a guide or joining a tour group. This will provide you with valuable insights into the history and architecture of these sites, as well as help you navigate the complex layout of the Angkor Archaeological Park.
When visiting Bayon, take some time to explore the intricate carvings and bas-reliefs that adorn the temple walls. The Terrace of Elephants, with its ornate carvings of elephants and other animals, is another must-see site. And of course, Angkor Thom itself, with its impressive gates, temples, and city walls, is an awe-inspiring sight to behold.
Overall, visiting Bayon, Terrace of Elephants, and Angkor Thom is a must-do for any traveler interested in history, culture, and architecture. With careful planning and the right accommodations, you can have a truly unforgettable experience exploring these ancient wonders.