Bayon Temple: The Smiling Faces You Cannot Miss

As one of our site visits to the temples of Siem Reap, we arrived at Bayon Temple. We know the Angkor Wat temple is known worldwide as a UNESCO and historical site, Ta Phrom temple for its gigantic trees and scene in Tomb Raider… but what is Bayon Temple known for?

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The Huge Stone Faces

From far, these look like towers to you.

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If you look closer, they are actually faces of Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, the deity in Buddhism. You can say they are smiling Buddha faces too.

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Image Credit: Matt Bishop

There are a total of 51 towers in Bayon, and each tower will have four smiling face, one in each direction. Somehow, if you look at the smiling face long enough, you feel calm and peaceful.

That’s not the amazing part yet.

As I walk around the temple and observing the faces, I realized that the faces are carved to almost 99% similarity. I can’t find a different smiling face. Imagine the technology then (12th century), and wonder how they can crave out similar smiling face across all the 51 towers, 4 faces a tower.

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Inside the Bayon Temple

You see the faces outside, but is there anything inside?

I walked the whole area which took me about 1 hour, and I can say there’s nothing much other than going near to the faces of each smiling Buddha and observe the carvings. There’s along a long wall that has carvings of different figures. You’ll love it if you’re into ancient art.

Scam or not?

As you explore the interior of the temple, you will come across an altar set up in a dark corner which allows you to offer your prayers. An old nun will be there to give you joss sticks to pray and put it on the altar. If you do take the joss sticks, don’t expect to walk off after your prayers. They will demand donations (US DOLLARS) from you.

Some call it scam, some call it money for the temple. I’m not sure where the money will go, but they will prey on tourists who found them. So if you want to stay away from all these, just don’t be too curious and take up the joss sticks offered.

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Motivational Stones?

So as I was about to exit the Bayon Temple, I see rocks stacked up in rows. I thought it’s quite nicely arranged, and looks like those pictures found in motivational posters!

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Then I did one myself for the fun of it before I left.

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I know it’s kind of short compared to others. Anyway, is there any significance to the stacked-up stones, or is it just built by curious tourists like me?

The Bayon Temple is our last stop of our visit to the 3 temples. If you ask me which temple is the best, I can’t tell you which, as all 3 temples are at least worth a visit. The ticket you purchased for the visit to Angkor Wat will cover the visit to Ta Phrom and Bayon too. So don’t waste the tickets!

Over to you. What else do you find interesting about your trip to Bayon Temple?

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