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The Bayon was the state temple of Jayavarman VII and some of his successors, located at the centre of Angkor Thom and when it was first visited by Western explorers the site was totally overgrown, slowly but steadily being reclaimed by the jungle.

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Under the guidance of the first Angkor Conservator, Jean Commaille, the site was cleared between 1911 and 1913. At the time he lamented that “Every month, perhaps every day, some stones would fall. The complete ruin of the temple was only a matter of time, and it was necessary to consider how to halt it without further delay”. While the restoration indeed saved the monument, some chose to not spare those behind it, labelling the ruins a “basket of bottles” once the clearing was complete. Commaille was murdered by armed robbers in 1916 and is buried to the southwest of the monument.

Bayon’s famous reliefs depict scenes of everyday life. Photo taken in or around Bayon, Angkor, Cambodia by Caroline Major.

Bayon’s famous reliefs depict scenes of everyday life. Photo: Caroline Major

Stripped of the overgrowth, the Bayon was revealed as a three-tiered pyramid temple, with the central tower stretching to 45 metres in height. This central tower is topped with the largest examples of the all-facing, all-seeing enigmatic faces that litter the temple throughout. Originally the Bayon was comprised of 54 towers, each of which supported four faces—one looking to each point of the compass. Today, 49 towers remain. These are simply stunning and make Bayon worthy of its “must-see” status.

Theories behind the meaning of the faces have flourished. Who do they represent? Buddha? Brahma? Hindu deities? Jayavarman VII himself? George Coedes, an archeologist who worked on Angkor in the 1930s, surmised that the sculptures represented King Jayavarman VII as a god-king. It has also been suggested that the 54 towers represented the 54 provinces of the realm, with the king’s face looking over the entire country. Research continues. We may never know and can expect the meaning behind the faces to remain ... Travelfish members only (Around 500 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.

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At the absolute centre of Angkor Thom

Location map for Bayon

Popular attractions in Angkor

A selection of some of our favourite sights and activities around Angkor.

What next?

 Check out our listings of things to do in and around Angkor.
 Read up on how to get to Angkor, or book your transport online with Camboticket.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Angkor? Please read this.
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See below for more sights and activities in Angkor that are listed on

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Where to next?

Where are you planning on heading to after Angkor? Here are some spots commonly visited from here, or click here to see a full destination list for Cambodia.

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