I had lived in Asia for a number of years before going to see Ankor Wat and the other sites in Siam Reap, Cambodia. Maybe it was my fear that it would be overrun by tourists that kept me away. Once I finally got there I realized that I had been a fool and should have gone much earlier, and probably more than once. There were many tourists, of course, but our guide knew the ebb and flow of the tour groups and did a great job of bringing us to places when they were mostly empty.
One of my favorite places in Siam Reap was Bayon, also known as Prasat Bayon. Bayon is one of the most well-known temples and is located in the Ankor Thom complex. It was built in the late 12th or early 13th century by the Mahayana Buddhist King Jayavarman VII and was restored in the early 20th Century by the École Française d'Extrême Orient and has been cared for by the Japanese Government team for the Safeguarding of Angkor (the JSA) since 1995.
The most famous feature of Bayon are the many large faces looking down from the temple. No one is quite sure who the 216 faces represent. Some people believe they are of Jayavarman while others belong to the bodhisattva of compassion called Avalokitesvara or Lokesvara. No matter who they represent, the serene, omnipresent faces have come to define and represent the temple.
If you look beyond the faces, you can find many small, interesting carvings on the pillars and walls of the complex. While not as impressive as the faces, I found them to be very interesting (and photogenic).
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