Bayon temple is also world famous but for many tourists who never did their homework, they assumed Bayon is part of Angkor Wat.
Bayon is located a quick 15 minutes drive from Angkor Wat but it is a separate temple and not linked to Angkor Wat at all.
Angkor Wat is famous for its 5 huge towers, spacious courtyards, endless passageways, moat and about 5,000 apsaras (but who's counting and no one knows for sure) but Bayon is equally acclaimed for its 216 gigantic faces!
Bayon was built around 100 years after Angkor Wat by Mahayana Buddhist King Jayavaman VII who is not to be confused with King Suryavaman II who built Angkor Wat as a Hindu temple to Vishnu.
Completed in the 13th century, Bayon was the official state temple of King Jayavaman VII but after his death, Bayon slowly became a Hindu temple during the reign of his successor King Jayavaman VIII in the mid-13th century when the Khmer Empire became Hindu.
In the later centuries, it became Buddhist but this time Theravada Buddhism and not Mahayana.
Who were the faces that look remarkably alike?
More so when they resemble the face of King Jayavaman VII the man who ordered its construction!
Most scholars assume the faces are stone portraits of King Jayavaman VII as they are identical to other known statues of the king. This actually makes sense as kings rule by divine right in England and Europe while the Emperor of China ruled because he had the mandate of heaven as officially the was the Son of Heaven!
Khmer monarchs were no different and simply considered themselves 'Deva Raja' or God King! As the stone portrait carvings had to resemble a human, the one who commissioned them might as well have instructed the carvers and artisans to base the faces on himself rather than some labourer!
It is also believed the faces represented Avalokitesvara the Buddhist God of Mercy. Whatever the case, the smiling benign and enigmatic faces continue to fascinate and impress 21st century visitors.
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REMEMBER THAT ANGKOR WAT AND BAYON PLUS ALL THE MYRIAD TEMPLES ARE LOCATED IN A 400 SQ MILE HERITAGE SITE CALLED ANGKOR ARCHAEOLOGICAL PARK. ENTRY IS US$ 20 FOR 1 DAY OR US$ 40 FOR 3 DAYS WHICH IS WHAT YOU SHOULD GET AS 1 DAY IS MEANINGLESS.
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