A Return to Angkor: Exploring Breathtaking Bayon Temple

The remnants of two smiling faces adorn the Bayon Temple in Angkor Thom, Cambodia.

As you wander through Bayon Temple’s wedding cake-like levels, it’s likely you’ll feel as though you’re being watched — and indeed you are — by the 216 immense faces that adorn the 54 towers of this Angkorian jewel.

Built in the late 12th century, Bayon was established as the temple for King Jayavarman VII. It is believed that the statues with the Mona Lisa-esque smiles were modeled after King Jayavarman himself, perhaps married with the face of the Buddha. It took over a century to construct Bayon.

Currently, the Japanese government is at the helm of the movement to conserve Bayon. As at most Angkorian temples in the area, restoration work is evident: fresh, grey patches of concrete and numerous danger signs – further tempting mischievous Indiana Jones wannabes to explore!

A statue next to a temple at Bayon, Angkor.
A reddish stone path leads to Bayon Temple.
Weathered devata carving at Bayon, Angkor.


Where in the World?

Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All rights reserved.

Published by Tricia A. Mitchell

Tricia A. Mitchell is a freelance writer and photographer. Born in Europe but raised in the United States, she has lived in Valletta, Malta; Heidelberg, Germany; and Split, Croatia. An avid globetrotter who has visited more than 65 countries, she has a penchant for off-season travel. Tricia has learned that travel’s greatest gift is not sightseeing, rather it is the interactions with people. Some of her most memorable experiences have been sharing a bottle of champagne with distant French cousins in Lorraine, learning how to milk goats in a sleepy Bulgarian village, and ringing in the Vietnamese New Year with a Hanoi family. She welcomes any opportunity to practice French and German, and she loves delving into a place’s history and artisanal food scene. A former education administrator and training specialist, Tricia has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in international relations. She and her husband, Shawn, married in the ruins of a snowy German castle. They’ve been known to escape winter by basing themselves in coastal Croatia or Southeast Asia. Her writing has appeared in Fodor’s Travel, Frommer’s, and International Living.

33 thoughts on “A Return to Angkor: Exploring Breathtaking Bayon Temple

    1. Missbisdak, thanks for dropping in! I have my fingers crossed for you as well that you’ll get to Angkor – it’s such a special place! I’ll be posting more pics from the other atmospheric temples of Angkor soon. Are you from the Philippines? We’re hoping to make it there in the coming weeks. Any recommendations for must-see destinations? All the best!

    1. I’m glad you noticed the little people in that shot. I’d hoped that they’d be visible, along with the tuktuks, to give a sense of the scale of these glorious temples! You’ll be happy to hear, Marina, that many international governments are sponsoring the restoration of the Angkorian temples (India, Japan, Korea, Germany, etc.).

    1. Kongo, happy you dropped in! Angkor is rightfully on any bucket list. I just saw yours and I see that you’re headed to one of my favorite European cities soon – Prague. How long will you be there? Prague, like Angkor, is a magical place, with so much history and gorgeous architecture!

    2. Kongo, I had just replied to you and then noticed your monkey mascot after I’d done so. :) We have a similar little guy traveling with us through Southeast Asia that we’ve named Mango (rhymes with yours). I’ll have to do a post of some of his most flattering pictures shortly!

    1. Tim, thanks for your kind compliment! I also liked how the window provided a natural frame for the statue’s face. Bayon is a photographer’s paradise, as is Ta Prohm (the “Tomb Raider / tree temple”) which I’ll be featuring soon.

  1. Truly wonderful photographs!!! It gets me all excited looking through these!! My friends who had traveled there told me many stories of how amazing it was to go and see the temples, meet the people and eat their local dishes. They were “lucky” enough to have some local kids at one of the beaches that they were camping in, offer them to buy a bat they just captured. (I could be wrong, it might have been in Laos.) They ended up buying the bat and the kids cleaned and cooked it for them. One of the most adventurous stories I’ve ever heard. Have lots and lots of adventures!!!

    1. Glad you enjoyed them, Karen! Are you planning on visiting Cambodia and Angkor sometime soon?

      Though we didn’t have the opportunity to try it, we did hear of some bat delicacies in Laos – similar to what your friends were offered. The unusual snacks I recall from Cambodia were fried insects of all kinds – locusts, spiders and beetles. Bon appétit! :)

  2. I so enjoyed looking through your photos and taking a return trip in my imagination… Such a fascinating corner of the world. Lovely blog you have, too! (Nerd alert: I’m pretty partial to the Raleway typeface ;) Kudos for that!) xx Bethany

    1. Bethany, I’m happy that the images transported you back to your special journey through the Angkorian temples! In hindsight, I wish we’d spent more time there. An excuse to return.

      And, must admit that I like your ‘nerd alerts’ from the botanical and font worlds too. It seems we have similar design inspiration. :)

  3. Beautiful blog you have! Your photos remind me of my visit to Angkor Wat too! Maybe I should go back… Cheers, Mrs. J

      1. Hi Tricia, I went to Siem Reap and phnom Penh in 2007. So 6 years ago.

    1. Hi Anna,

      These temples certainly are fascinating. I’ve been to fantastic Bayon twice, but still haven’t made it to Banteay Srei, which is supposed to have some beautiful, intricate carvings. Perhaps a trip to Southeast Asia is in order again!

      Wishing you a wonderful, wonderful trip there. :)

      1. Thank you! Enjoy the remainder of your European summer! I personally find September to be the most magical time in Croatia!

      2. I absolutely agree about the merits of being in Croatia during the off-season — autumn and springtime are magical, and even winter is pretty lovely too despite it being rainier and cooler. Every time autumn rolls around, we get that itch to get back to Croatia or somewhere in the Mediterranean.

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