From a distance, Bayon actually looks a little chaotic, almost like a pile of rubble. But as you get closer, you'll feel the presence of over 200 faces smiling down at you...
A Snippet of its History
Built in the late 12th century, Bayon stands at the centre of Angkor Thom which was the capital city of the Khmer empire. Originally built as a Mahayana Buddhist temple by King Jayavarman VII, it was later converted into a Hindu temple, and then later on it was converted yet again to a Theravada Buddhist temple, following suit as the Khmer empire's official religion shifted. Eventually like the other temples in the Angkor Archeological Park, Bayon was abandoned, not to be rediscovered until the late 1800's.
Buddhist and Hindu Influences
Because Bayon was a Theravada and a Mahayana Buddhist temple, as well as a Hindu temple, there are still traces of those religions visible throughout the temple today. You'll see Buddhist sculptures and a well preserved linga which represents the Hindu god Shiva. Within the inner gallery, you'll also find a bas-relief depicting scenes from Hindu mythology.
The Faces of Bayon
The highlight of Bayon is definitely the 200 plus serene stone faces that tower over you which are best viewed from the upper terrace of the temple. Some believe that the faces are those of the bodhisattva Lokesvarak, smiling down with compassion on all directions. Others see similarities between the faces and the face of King Jayavarman VII as seen on sculptures of him. Regardless of who the inspiration behind these faces may be, wandering amongst the mysterious faces is an interesting sensation.
Want to get here?
Hours: 7:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
Getting here: Bayon is found within Angkor Thom within the Angkor Archaeological Park, and is part of the small circuit.
Admission: Admission to Bayon is included as part of your Angkor Pass.
Bonus tip: It's best to visit Bayon at around midday if you're looking to take good photos of the distinct faces. I went closer to the end of the day, and found that it was harder to capture the individual faces with the lighting.
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