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September 22, 2004

Temple of the Big Scary Heads


Warhol Style! yup were back in the past again folks....

We decided to take the next morning off (we had tried to catch the sun rise the day before but only succeeded in feeling bleery-eyed) all day, so after a leisurely lunch we headed out towards "The Bayon" probably the most mysterious of the Angkor temples. The Bayon is built on three levels with the walls of the lower 2 levels adorned with 1.2 km of beautiful bas relief carvings (sorry too wet for photo's). On the first level a series of battles with the Chams (Vietnamese) are depicted, starting with their sacking of Angkor (around 1177), destroying the city which stood before Angkor Thom and the confusion and civil war that followed, before the unification and eventual military revenge of the Khmers under Jayavarman VII (builder of the Bayon and the massive Angkor Thom). The scenes of war are impressive with multi-levelled panorama's depicting elephants, cavalry and infantry as well as naval battles, but I was more interested in the little details, like people playing board games, betting on cockfights and selling fish at the markets that reveal how the average Joe spent his day. We had just walked around the first level when the heavens opened, showing us what the monsoon was all about and forcing us to seek high ground (after a quick water fight with some local kids) while the streets turned to rivers, giving us another look at the fun loving Khmers in action. The next morning we headed out early to pick up where we had left off. Yesterday we had got no higher than the first level, missing out on what the Bayon is all about, BIG SCARY HEADS, lots of them. With 54 towers topped by 216 of the colossal smiling faces, they are impossible to escape. Around every corner and through every window they appear, making it hard to shake the feeling that you're being watched. As you climb to the top level it's possible to round a corner and come face to face with 4 or 5 of the grinning buggers, said to be a representation of Avalokiteshvara, the Buddha of Infinite Compassion (Buddha of the Infinite Heebie-Jeebies more like it). To be fair to Avalokiteshvara though, the spooky feeling here is more due to the sense of stillness and calm (quite foreign to us modern city dwellers) and being in the middle of the jungle in half-darkness. The sight of the sun rising was unforgettable, the morning light revealing one by one the timeless, serene smiles. When the suns heat became unbearable we headed back indoors, knowing that we had all afternoon to explore the jewel in the crown of the Angkor Sites, the one and only Angkor Wat.

Posted by Zach & Emily on September 22, 2004 10:32 PM
Category: CAMBODIA

I'm still checking up on ya's


Posted by: Dom on September 26, 2004 10:47 PM
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