Siem Reap, Cambodia
11° 23' N 104° 52' E
May 08, 2008 02:04
Distance 541km

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Angkor Wat. Temple: The Bayon.

Angkor Wat. Thursday Morning, May 8th.

First Temple: The Bayon/Angkor Thom

Arrived in Siem Reap (population around 100,000, but growing at an extreme rate), on Wednesday afternoon.  This city is surrounded by temples, including the famous Angkor (not Anchor) Wat. We were supposed to have taken a bus ride to get here(10 plus hours), but the road between Bangkok and Siem was apparently washed out, due to some of the early rains in the wet season. So, rather than a bus ride called 'The rock and roll' we had a 90 minute flight here instead and were $260 poorer: you win some, you lose some.

The way I will organize my blog entries for Siem Reap will be by temple site, of which there were five. Each entry will be for a different temple, as each was very different from the others. So whereas Angkor Wat is the most famous and most sacred, most would agree it is not the most impressive.

We were off at 8:30 to get our three day pass to all the temples for a cost of $40 (a Vietnamese company has the license for admission to the entire site). This was very professional: your pass has a photo of you on it so it is non-transferable. A fact of some interest to me was that 10 years ago there were only a few thousand guests, but last year there were 1,000,000 and this year they are budgeting for 2 million visitors. We had out own bus, as the site of the temples (of which there are over 100 around Siem Reap) is over several hundred square miles. We also had an expert guide. Our guide knew every length and height and date and other irrelevant fact, enough to fill a book: to restate this, he was my kind of guide.

The Bayon is huge and very dense with temples!!! One of the most remarkable features of this site is that it has a series of four walls, running 3, 936 feet, which are full of very detailed bas-relief carvings. Add to this that there are numerous mysterious and large faces of Buddhas carved into the tops of the temple towers, and it is very impressive. 

This site made for a wonderful introduction to our two days of visiting temples. This Buddhist site (others have a Hindu basis) was built by Jayavarman VII from 1181 to 1220. The site is large and the temperature was somewhere between very and extremely hot, with oppressive humidity. This made all our visits a challenge between trading off creature comfort with once-in-a-lifetime awesome sights. Wherever possible, you looked out for shade. I easily drank and sweated over 2 litres of water per day here: I have never sweated more or longer than these two days in my life. This visit lasted about 2 ½ hours, by which time we were ready to move on to lunch and air conditioning.

Photos / videos of "Angkor Wat. Temple: The Bayon.":

View of rice fields around Siem Reap, as seen from airplane. Entrance to The Bayon.  There are 54 devils holding a snake on one side and 54 Buddhas on the other side, also holding a snake.  The number 108 (2 x 54) is important in their system of Buddhism. Entrance to Angkor Thom.  The Bayon is one of the temples in this site. Bas relief carvings in sandstone.  The entire outer wall of the Bayon is covered with this detail. Towers inside the Bayon.  Note the Buddha faces carved into the top faces of some of the towers. Some of the many faces of Buddha carved into the towers.  This is a Buddhist temple that does not have Hindu influences. My travelling mates; we are a good collection of travellers. Includes two medical doctors, so we are in good hands, plus one psychologist. Man, or Johan, goes nose to nose with Buddha.  Our guide knows all the Kodak moments and shots and insists we do them all. These temples are a series of square rings that circle the centre, where there is a Buddha. Each side is exactly the same as the other sides; there is no room for creativity or originality by the carvers. View from a distance of one of the many towers at the Bayon.  Each tower is about 1 to 15 metes tall. View of the Bayon from a distance.  Can you appreciate why I was so impressed?  This temple was built in the 1100's and is in pretty good shape, especially given it is made of soft sandstone. The puzzle.  These are parts of one of the Bayon.  These temples were knocked down by the Thai in the 1400's.  The Cambodians are not the purists that the Greeks are, and are prepared to use new materials to restore the temples (glad they feel that way). Elephant temple, which is next to the Bayon. One last shot of the Bayon.  It was so wonderful, even though the temp was in the mid 30's and humidity was very high.  Because of the difficult weather, it is now the slow season and there were limited crowds.