Exploring Indochina: Angkor Thom (Bayon & Baphuon)

After witnessing the majestic Angkor Wat sunrise, we went back to the guesthouse for breakfast. We left again around 8:00 am together with our tour guide, Rume (Mr. Janny Vang).
 
Our first stop for the day was Angkor Thom. As expected, we entered through the south gate where we were welcomed by these faces – a preview of many more we’re going to be acquainted with in a few hours.
South gate of Angkor Thom
Leading the path to the south gate are gods (devas) on one side and demons (asuras) on the other; each group holding a naga as if in a state of tug-of-war more known locally as Churning of the Sea of Milk.

We went back to our tuk-tuk and proceeded to Bayon. For $15 per head, you can also explore the complex on an elephant.
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Before we went inside Bayon, Rume gave us a bit of a history lesson. Forgive me for I cannot remember every detail. You can always Google it anyway. 😉 But if there’s one thing I’m sure of, it is that Bayon sits exactly at the center of Angkor Thom; 1.5km from both the north and south gates.
 How many faces can you spot? :p
First we admired the different carvings depicting historical events and daily life.


We then went to the next tier where a 3.6m tall Buddha statue in meditation was supposedly located  but was then removed and thrown down a well together with the other Buddha statues mounted on the walls (evident in the hollow spots) by the succeeding monarch Jayavarman VIII (J8 as Khmers call him) who changed the state religion back to Hinduism.
 

We then ascended to the top-most tier via steep stairs where we finally came vis-à-vis with…well, with the many faces of Bayon of course! According to our guide, there are 54 towers in total. 
Smile. It’s a beautiful day. 😉

Rume gave us 10 minutes to explore the temple by ourselves, but with hundreds of tourists also in Bayon that day, we can’t hardly go anywhere without squeezing ourselves through passageways.
 
We were already satisfied with what we saw anyway, so we asked Rume to take us to the next temple.


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Northwest of Bayon is Baphuon – built in the mid-11th century; it is a three-tiered temple mountain dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva.
Getting to the top was taxing even with a staircase
At dahil umeffort ako sa pag-akyat, I deserve a photo op! haha

But really, you will be rewarded with this view.

You got to wonder how they create multitudes of massive structures (and proportional at that) without the use of modern and heavy equipment.
 
We went down on the west side of the temple where we saw the unfinished reclining Buddha.
 
The Lego-like reclining Buddha
 
We also went to Phimeanakas but we opted to just rest under the shade of a tree.
It was already noon and the sun was scorching. But Rume said that in the summer, temperature can reach up to 40º, and all this time we were touring without water because we left it in our tuk-tuk -_-  He then took us to one of the eateries for some refreshments. While on our way there I asked him if there are still landmines in the park, and fortunately, it is landmine free. However, the same cannot be said about his hometown of Battambang.
 
What I liked about Rume is not only did he provide us information about the temples, but he’s interested in our culture as well. He asked a lot of stuff about The Philippines and even tried to learn some Filipino words. There’s nothing more disappointing than awkward silence, and I’m glad we never had a dull moment with him.
 
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After our break we went to the Terrace of the Leper King and Terrace of the Elephants  but we did not spend much time here since there’s nothing much to see.
Leper King

This is only a replica since the original statue where it got its name supposedly had moss growing on it.

Terrace of the Elephants

It was used as a giant reviewing stand for public ceremonies and served as a base of the king’s grand audience hall.
 
And that capped our tour of Angkor Thom. We resumed the tour after lunch starting at Banteay Kdei.  (next post)
 
K

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