Photo: Just spectacular.

Baphuon

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On July 3, 2011, Cambodia’s King Norodom Sihamoni and French Prime Minister Francois Fillon were in Siem Reap for a special ceremony to mark the official opening of the restored Baphuon temple.





The opening was the culmination of nearly 100 years of work, punctuated by wars, conflict and occupation, made possible by the tireless dedication and optimism of the workers. The final stage, over the last 16 years, has seen a 300-strong team tackle what had become the largest three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle in the world.

Baphuon, as imagined by Lucien Fournereau in 1889. Photo taken in or around Baphuon, Angkor, Cambodia by Nicky Sullivan.

Baphuon, as imagined by Lucien Fournereau in 1889. Photo: Nicky Sullivan

Baphuon temple, though less famous than Bayon, was once described in terms that totally outshone its more famous neighbour; Bayon clearly has a better PR team. Zhou Daghuon, the 13th century Chinese emissary on whom we count for so much information about Cambodia’s history, talked of a “tower of bronze, higher even than the golden tower [Bayon]; a truly astonishing spectacle”.

Unfortunately, by the time the early French explorers were setting about recording and restoring Angkor, Baphuon had entirely lost its lustre. Overgrowth, collapses and a remodelling in the 16th century had left the temple looking like little more than a misshapen, grassy mound of which, one commentator noted, “so little of orderly beauty remains that many slight it”.

Plenty of space to explore. Photo taken in or around Baphuon, Angkor, Cambodia by Caroline Major.

Plenty of space to explore. Photo: Caroline Major

The principal difficulty with Baphuon was the limitations in the knowledge of those who originally constructed it. A temple mountain composed of three increasingly tall layers should have been constructed with increasingly thick walls in order to hold in the sand at the core. Unfortunately, perhaps because it was difficult to get the thicker stones needed up as the temple grew in height to its final 34m height, the walls became thinner, and the seeds of Baphuon’s fall ... please log in to read the rest of this story.


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Baphuon
400m north of the Bayon, to the west

Location map for Baphuon

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