Bayon Temple: The mysterious faces with their curious smile
February 14, 2016
Bayon temple is located into Angkor Archaeological Park, 6 km to the north,from central Siem Reap.
When I finished to write my experience about Angkor temples (link here) I thought for few days to make another post focused to just one temple. As a result I have chosen Bayon Temples, their curious smile was impressive just looking some pictures. I decided to rent a bike and discover this temple by myself. It is a must-see for anyone thinking to visit Cambodia or even Asia. As with the other temples in Angkor, Bayon Temple is unique in design and art. This surreal temple was built as the official state temple of the legendary King Jayavarman VII. It is a well-known and richly decorated Khmer Temple at Angkor.
Bayon Temple stands in the centre of the ancient capital of Angkor Thom, it was not universally acknowledged for such a long time. Dating from the late 12th century, the Bayon most distinctive feature is the 216 stone smiling faces looking in all directions. This majestic temple was the last state temple to be built at Angkor, and the only Angkorian state temple to be built primarily as a Mahayana Buddhist shrine dedicated to the Buddha. It was the centrepiece of Jayavarman VII’s massive program of monumental construction and public work. The arrangement is far more complex than it seems to be.
Anyway, would you like to read my amazing 110 days around Southeast Asia?!?! Link here!
I have chosen this temple for one particular reason: its history is particularly intriguing. I have read many things about that, let’s talk about the most impressive thing: the stone faces smile.
A number of theories explaining the mystery behind those smiling faces, like the case of Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, have been formulated. The most generally accepted theory is that the faces might be a combination of Avalokiteshvara (a bodhisattva who embodies compassion) and the King of that time, Jayavarman VII, who considered himself a god-king ruling in the name of Buddha. I also read that the smiling faces and closed eyes possibly represent an all-knowing state of inner peace, and perhaps a state of Nirvana.
Known for representing the intersection of heaven and earth, Bayon Temple remains one of the most enigmatic temples of the Angkor complex. The temple is oriented towards the east with a road leading directly from the gates to each of Angkor Thom’s cardinal points. Bayon Temple itself is surrounded by two walls which serve as outdoor large galleries exhibiting an extraordinary collection of bas-relief. The scenes represented are of historical and mythological events; as well as images taken from daily life activities of the Angkorian Khmer people of almost one thousand years ago. In total, there are approximately 11,000 sculptural figures covering the walls of 1.2 kilometres in length. The details were vividly carved in the stone walls without any sort of epigraph text.
Of all the many ancient structures that I visited during my trip around Southeast Asia, Bayon Temples with their smiling faces are one of the most impressive.
How to get there, best time and cost
There are many options to get around this top location:
- By bike: Well maintained bike can be hired through various guest houses for 5/7$AUD per day. It’s the cheapest, and for me the best, way to get around.
- By motorbike: renting a motorbike is prohibited for foreign visitors in Siem Reap, though it is permitted anywhere else.
- By Tuk Tuk: it can be arranged through guesthouses, offering space for one, two or three travellers. It costs around $20AUD for the main Angkor temples, and more for outlying temples. They usually speak a basic english and they will wait for you outside every temple during the tour. Add 5$AUD extra fee if you want to see sunrise at Angkor Wat.
High season runs from November to March, when the weather is usually fair. From late October to November, the country is still lush after the rainy season and there are fewer tourists. You have to pay a ticket that costs 40$USD for 3 days entrance. The ticket booth is on the road from Siem Reap to Angkor, you will find it easily.
- Getting around by bicycle is a great way to explore some of the most popular temples at Angkor. It’s cheap, it’s easy to find a bike, the road is flat and clear and why not?! It’s a great way to work out.
- Wear comfortable shoes with good soles; the paving at the temples is uneven and slippery when wet.
- Don’t forget some cold water even if you will find a lot of vendors on the way and outside every temple.
- Avoid the hassles that are everywhere.
- Make sure you bring your camera because you can find beautiful spots in almost every step you take. Ask before taking pictures, there is a balance between being respectful and getting great pictures!
- My last tip: This is a Cambodia Travel Must. Don’t get stuck with the thing that ruins your day, life is too short to be wasted in your crap. Smile and be positive because there are so many beautiful reasons to be happy, one of those is travelling.
Author of this post: Davide
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This temple is impressive and even more fascinating for the mystery involving the meaning of the smiling faces. Loved your photos and writing.
Exactly, mystery and charm in their smile! Thank you so much for your comment!!
I loved the Bayon temple too, it’s like a photographers playground with all that detail in the stone. Ankor Wat is such a special site, it’s a shame I was only there for a day but still got to see plenty.Happy travels!
Yeah Matt, one day is not enough for visiting all the temples area! Many stuff to do, many things to see!! Thank you so much for your comment!
I’m glad that I found this post, because I´m not even sure if I knew Bayon Temple. For a 12th century temple, the smiling faces are really well preserved. I guess that smiling is really the best medicine!
You absolutely right, maybe their smile is the best medicine to keep preserve this beautiful temple! Thank you so much for your comment!
this place seems to be really beautiful! and those legends about the origin of faces are really interesting, I like to go to places which are hiding some unknown mysteries
Well if you like hidden places with full of charm and mystery, this is the best choose for you!! Enjoy your time there in case, Thank you so much for your comment!
this is a great post for someone that wants to visit Cambodia. I will definitely comeback to check your post the day I plan this trip. It’s very informative thank you for sharing it
WOnderful, if you need any other information just contact me in private! Thank you so much for your comment and to be considered this blog 😀
This is one of my favourite temples, it is very beautiful. I have my pic taken looking like we are touching faces!! I love this part of the world so much to see, truly magical 🙂
Truly magical, you got it! Thank you so much for your comment and to be passed here on utravelshare.com
Oh my this is beautiful! Have never considered Cambodia as a destination I’d like to visit but I think it may have just been added to my list!
Just put it on your bucket list, this is a wonderful destination! Thank you so much for your comment and to be passed here on utravelshare.com
I visited Bayon temple around 3 years ago and also felt in awe. The atmosphere surrounding that area was just so special 🙂 And our local guide said if you took a picture of your face with one of the smiling faces, you would receive lots of luck 🙂
Yes I remember someone told me the same, taking a picture of smiling face means receiving lots of luck!! Thank you so much for your comment and to be passed here on utravelshare.com
Well- this is impressive! I love it. I think that $20 is fair enough for the temples – as long as the money goes to the restoration! Mind you if you’ve gone all that way you’re going to pay it! I would certainly pay the extra five for the sunset. Sadly when I went to South East Asia back in 1999 I didn’t get to Cambodia! I will have to go back!
Yes Scott, put it to your new bucket list and enjoy this place! I am pretty sure more than 20 years ago Cambodia was quite different! Thank you so much for your comment and to be passed here on utravelshare.com
This place looks absolutely breathtaking! I love your photos, they really showcase the structures in the best light. I love the intricacy and age of it all! Great post with valuable information, thanks so much for sharing!
Thank you so much Aisha for your comment and to be passed here on utravelshare.com
I really want to go here! Cambodia has been on my bucket list for so long and I have been seeing so many incredible pictures of Bayon temple lately.
Cambodia is an amazing country!! Thank you for your comment, I appreciate!
Oh this looks like the type of adventure we’d like to try. This place is so bizzare but who doesn’t love strange things? The photos are so beautiful.
We’d love to try the tuk tuk 🙂
I love to take pictures around and that place was perfect; I just couldn’t stop taking pictures of their bizarre faces! Thank you for your comment, I appreciate!
You are absolutely right, The temples are a Cambodia MUST-DO! I loved them.
Thanks Kelly!! I really loved this amazing and magic place! Can’t wait for another great travel experience! keep following us around the world, 😀
Love the temples in Cambodia – so fascinating and crazy how old they are! Great info which should encourage more people to visit the lovely places Cambodia has to offer!
Exactly Ashlee, Bayon temple is one of my favourite place in Siam Reap! Mysterious and fascinating like you said! Keep following us and our adventure around the world….