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The Mona Lisa of SE Asia: Bayon Temple

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The Bayon smirk.

After visiting just some of Angkor Wat’s monumental temples, it was quite a nice relief to see hundreds of mysterious smirks smiling down on us. I knew I couldn’t forget this temple.

Against all suggestions, we visited around noon, the HOTTEST time of the day. It didn’t help that I was sick with the beginnings of the flu. Let me tell you, that summer Cambodian sun is no joke. Although we were melting away while everyone else was relaxing on their lunch break, the great part was that there was hardly anyone around. It was amazing and taking photos was a relaxing experience, not like the other temples where I was shuffling to get the perfect angle before someone stepped in front of me to do the same. We basically had one of the best temples (in my opinion) to ourselves! It’s a serene sight to see.

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All to myself!

Of all the striking features of Bayon Temple, it’s the over 200 gigantic stone faces that stand out the most. These faces, dubbed the ‘Mona Lisa of South East Asia’ come in sets of four, facing outwards, and are each identical. According to some scholars, the statues depict the face of Buddha.  Others, however, believe the faces depict the ruler Jayavarman himself, as the resemblance is uncanny to other images of the king. During the reign of Jayavarman, the Khmer Empire was enjoying its Golden Age. He was the most powerful king and during his reign, so many temples were built to symbolize his power.

Bayon was simply amazing and needs to be on your to-see list at Angkor Wat! Just remember: since it’s crazy popular, it’s worth exploring at the peak of day to avoid the swarms of tourists that are bound to come in the early mornings or evenings.

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