Bayon Temple, Siem Reap Overview

Bayon is a famous temple in Siem Reap which vies with Angkor Wat another top tourists spot. It is located in the centre of the ancient capital city of Angkor Thom. Bayon temple is the only Buddhist shrine in the Angkor region which is otherwise dominated by Hindu temples. The central characteristic elements of Bayon temple are huge smiling faces made of large blocks of stone on 37 towers adorning all the four sides. Initially, there were 216 stone faces on 54 towers, out of which around 200 remain today. These rock faces are also nicknamed Mona Lisa of Asia, thanks to the charismatic smiles.

Built by King Jayavarman VII, Bayon was the state temple of Mahayana Buddhism and even the last state temple built in Angkor. Angkor Thom became a flourishing capital during his reign, and Bayon temple was constructed to demonstrate his power and influence upon his subjects. Today, people from across the world come here to get a glimpse of the enigmatic serene faces in the second most visited temple of Siem Reap.

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Ticket details

The entrance fee for admission to Bayon temple is included within the temple pass for central Angkor. Foreigners are required to buy an admission pass, called the Angkor pass, which can only be purchased at the official ticket centre, located 4 kilometres away from Siem Reap town. It is open from 5:00 AM to 5:30 PM every day. The entrance ticket can be purchased either by cash (US Dollars, Cambodian Riel, Thai Bath or Euro) or by credit card. Tickets issued after 5:00 PM are only valid from the next day.

There are three types of admission passes available, depending on the number of entries:
1-Day: USD 37 for a day pass
3-Days: USD 62 valid for ten days
7-Days: USD 72 valid for one month

Best time to visit

Like many other temples in Angkor, early morning before and just after sunrise are the best times to visit. Also since Bayon faces the east, watching the sunrise from here is unique.

Bayon Temple History & Significance

Bayon temple was built in the late 12th century, and after King Jayavarman VII's death, the succeeding rulers, mostly Hindu emperors, modified the temple according to their preferences. That's the reason why Bayon temple is an excellent example of the conglomeration of two religions Hinduism and Buddhism in both architectures as well as the significance.

Bayon temple has a deep-rooted significance in its construction and purpose. The temple's original name was Victory Mountain, representing Mount Mandara, the mythological mountain from which the Asuras and Devas churned the milk of ocean during Samudra Manthan. Bayon symbolises this mountain, which was believed to be the centre of the world, and its location at the centre of ancient capital Angkor Thom signifies its importance. There are 54 statues each of Asuras and Devas, just outside the temple, holding a giant serpent on two ends.

The mystical, serene faces are one of their kind, and historians have presented a few hypotheses regarding similar-looking stone faces. A highly accepted theory is that the stone face was constructed to resemble King Jayavarman VII as per his orders. Another argument is that these faces represent the Buddhist bodhisattva of compassion called Avalokitesvara or Lokesvara. Finally, a few scholars believe that it is possibly a combination of the above theories and that the king considered himself as Devaraja or the god-king.

Architecture

Considered to represent the centre of the world as well as the centre of Angkor Thom city, Bayon doesn't have any moats or walls that surround. Unlike Angkor Wat which is massive, Bayon looks compact but at the same time uncompromised in its architecture. The towers with the smiling faces take all the limelight for sure, but there is so much more to explore and admire in Bayon. The temple consists of outer and inner galleries, the upper terrace and the central sanctuary.

While the outer gallery prominently includes many particular events of daily life in the Khmer empire, with sculptures vividly describing many significant events as well. The inner gallery has descriptive bas reliefs depicting Hindu mythology with several well-carved, big statues of Hindu Gods. The upper terrace is home to the towers housing the handsome faces. The sanctuary in the centre had a massive statue of Buddha, which was present until the death of King Jayavarman VII. Following his death, the figure was demolished, and later on, the temple remained without any statue.

What to wear

As with the other temples in Siem Reap, it is expected that tourists dress appropriately. Women need to cover their shoulder at all times and wear knee-length attire. Sleeveless shirts and shorts are also not allowed for both men and women. Note that the rules are strictly followed, and you might be denied entry by the guards if you fail to obey them.

General tips

Keep enough water and stay hydrated at all times. Wear sunscreen while visiting temples. And finally, touring in Angkor involves a lot of walking, so take sufficient rest in between the temples.

Bayon Temple tips

Most of the crowds go to Angkor during sunrise, making it a great chance to visit Bayon at this time. If you have two days, it's better if you could watch sunrises at each of these temples. Avoid early noon if you don't prefer crowds as it is the peak time. Evenings get pleasant and are also an excellent time to explore Bayon.

How to reach

When travelling to the main bunch of Angkor temples, the most popular way to enter the temple is by car or bus, and you’re typically looking at around a 30-minute drive. A day’s hire of a tuk-tuk from the town around the major temples at Angkor Wat and back should cost around USD 15-25. For a guided tour, expect to pay closer to USD 25.

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