Sunday, April 12, 2009
As much as I wanted to see Angkor Wat, probably from the pictures I saw of it when I was a child, the Angkor site that I would most like to have seen intact, as it was back in the day, was Bayon at Angkor Thom. Angkor Thom is a fortified city, centered on Bayon. It was built by Angkor's most celebrated king, Jayavarman VII in the late 12th century. There are five gates to the city. Four face the cardinal directions, with an extra one on the east side. Each gate bears four giant stone faces. All told, there are 37 of the original 54 towers still intact; each tower had four faces, one at each cardinal point. I'm not sure you could ever have been out of sight of one of the faces. Like Angkor Wat, Bayon has some exquisite bas-reliefs. Finally, our guide showed us one of those spots guides know about, in which forced perspective can bring you face-to-face with one of the enigmatic faces of Bayon. The photo below was taken by younger son. Several of the guidebooks advise that if you only have time for two sites at Angkor, they be Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom, specifically Bayon. The guidebooks are right. Angkor Wat is the defining site, but Bayon is also not to be missed.