Baphuon

The world's biggest jigsaw puzzle

No pic at the moment -- Sorry!

What we say: 2.5 stars

If it had remained standing, Baphuon would be by far the tallest of the monuments at Angkor. Once a temple mountain, Baphuon was little more than a rabble of rubble when restoration work at Angkor first began.

Work commenced on the Baphuon in the 1960s when the monument's 300,000 stones were dismantled and each one's unique position meticulously recorded by the Ecole Francaise d'Extreme-Orient (EFEO). Then the 70s — war and the Khmer Rouge — descended and for more than two decades work was suspended. During this hiatus, virtually all the supporting paperwork save some photos of the temple were lost, leaving the restorers in the unenviable situation of trying to assemble possibly the world's largest jigsaw puzzle.

Erected around 1060 during the reign of King Udayadityavarman II, the Baphuon was situated just to the south of the Royal enclosure and was easily the largest temple of its time. It consists of a long, narrow entry path boosted by columns. China's Zhou wrote that here "...rises the Tower of Bronze, higher even than the Golden Tower: a truly astonishing spectacle".

The entrance path was the only accessible site when we last visited in mid 2009. The square building, shaped a bit like a three-tier cake collapsing at the top, remained cordoned off. Several of the base towers flanking the main building have been rebuilt, but the tower itself still looks quite fragile. The Buddha statue on the western face of the temple is supposedly accessible from 07:00 to 15:00 daily, with a temporary wooden staircase leading visitors up to that section of the building. But the staircase was gated and padlocked when we visited, and looked like it had been for some time.

More details
400m north of the Bayon, to the west
Last updated: 27th December, 2009

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