Hike-in Required
No
Open Year-round
Yes
ADA accessible
No
Guided tours
No
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Bayon Temple was built in the 12th century and about 100 years after Angkor Wat, and it is in the exact center of Angkor Thom. It is famous for it’s stone Buddha faces that highlight the magnificence of Bayon. In Bayon’s current state, it has 37 towers. Each tower has four faces that point in four opposing directions.

Enter Bayon from the north side. There are several entrances to the main temple, but the north has a courtyard and easier access. There is an outer wall with beautiful bas-reliefs carved in stone along this courtyard. You will pass through the "Gallery of Apsaras" to steep stairs that will take you to the top.  Once on top you can walk around the center tower to see the many different views of the Buddha faces. Several towers are very close at this point, and they make for great photo opportunities. The 200 Faces of Buddha is said to be the face of Lokesvara, better known in Buddhist mythology as Avalokitasvara, a Bodhisattva that is widely revered. The faces appear to be smiling slightly and seem to follow you as you walk around. 

The outer gallery of Bayon has beautiful carvings that are still in very good condition. Some walls show a procession of the Khmer army marching. Another wall shows activities of daily life at Angkor. One could spend hours just studying the carvings and imagining how life must have been for them in the 12th century.

The south gallery on the east side is by far the most detailed of all the Angkor temples, including Angkor Wat. On the east side of the South Gallery is the depiction of a naval battle that occurred in the early part of the 12th century between the Khmer army and the Chams. Many boats are carved with warriors holding javelins or bows going into battle. At the meeting point, warriors are dipicted being thrown into the water and eaten by crocodiles! Among the boats are numerous fish swimming amid the battle. In very explicit detail, the south gallery naval battle shows clearly the start of the fighting and what became of the warriors once they fell overboard. It is quite possible they were forced overboard by their enemy. Crocodiles can be seen biting the torso or legs of the warriors in good detail with exposed teeth and clinching claws. This scene is found throughout the bas-relief.

While the majority of people flock to Angkor Wat for sunrise, which should be experienced at least once, there are other options. If you are getting a late start and want to avoid the crowds at Angkor Wat, a visit to Bayon Temple for sunrise is a very worthwhile trip. If you are fortunate to have clear skies in the morning, I would suggest going to the top platform of Bayon and observing the faces as the sun comes up. Part of the fun is finding the correct angle and face where the sun makes first contact.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Winter
Spring
Fall

Congestion

High

Parking Pass

National or state forest pass

Pros

Amazing architecture and history.

Cons

Hot and humid most of the time. Tourist crowds.

Pets allowed

Not Allowed

Features

Family friendly
Historically significant

Location

Field Guide

Comments

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