After the silhouette of Angkor Wat, the Face Towers of Bayon temple are the most iconic and enigmatic images of Angkor. There are currently 37 towers adorning Bayon with gargantuan faces of Avalokiteshvara, remarkably resembling features of king Jayavarman VII who had them built. While looking at the face towers of Bayon from the ground level delivers little thrill, walking up to the top level of the temple and standing face to face with these giant heads – almost looking them in the eyes, more than makes up for it. Because Bayon Face Towers are an icon on their own, I have decided to create a photo gallery dedicated especially to them, separately from main Bayon temple photo gallery.
Bayon was built by king Jayavarman VII as his state temple at the end of 12th century, after he drove out the Chams who sacked the place. Today, Bayon is best known for its iconic towers crowned with four giant faces, each looking out to a respective cardinal point. Bayon is the center of Angkor Thom and symbolizes Mount Meru, sacred mountain in the center of the universe (inspired from Hindu cosmology). This photo gallery is a collection of photographs I took of Bayon temple when I was exploring it.
Bayon has a multitude of symbolic functions. Outer walls of Angkor Thom constitute its outermost enclosure within which Bayon stands as the pivotal mountain in the Churning of the Sea of Milk. Protected at each entrance by Hindu serpent Vasuki, the gods and demons who rotate it exert the “Elixir of Immortality” from the depths of the water that surrounds it.
Bayon was built to be a Mahayana Buddhist temple. Statue of Buddha seated on and sheltered by a multi-headed serpent Mucilinda was originally housed in the central prasat but was later smashed and thrown into the foundation well after death of Jayavarman VII, indicating change in religion (revival of Brahmanism). The statue went out of knowledge until it was re-discovered by archaeologists in 1933.
Bayon’s exterior galleries have walls covered in bas reliefs but aside from a few passages, lack roofs. Many bas relief characters are Chinese, who are seen as both soldiers and businessmen, often with Khmer women, sometimes with friends drinking and dancing. Random scenes from daily life of people occupying the Angkor Thom city compound are portrayed in bas reliefs of exterior galleries. I’ll let the pictures introduce you to the beauty of the Bayon temple:
While Angkor Archaeological Park is full of visually breathtaking temples, Angkor Wat is without doubt the most spectacular one. This photo gallery showcases Angkor Wat in the morning light. I have already offered an important Angkor Wat Photo Tip in a post suggesting the best itinerary for an Angkor Wat tour and this photo gallery will demonstrate with images why morning is NOT the best time to visit and/or photograph Angkor Wat.
One exception to the rule would be to come to Angkor Wat way early in the morning – before the sunrise. Since visiting hours start at 5am, if you are an early bird and can get up and get ready before 5 so you can get to Angkor Wat just before the sun breaks over the horizon, you would be able to capture the silhouettes of Angkor Wat against the colored morning sky without the sun creating strong backlight.
Obviously, you would have to be a truly dedicated photographer to undertake the pre-sunrise mission as it requires an extremely early get-up and once you got the pictures, you will have to move somewhere else as Angkor Wat will not be photogenic for the rest of the morning.
I could never do that which is why I don’t have any photos of Angkor Wat at the sunrise in the gallery. I’m a night owl, I go to bed at 4am. I can work till late, just don’t ask me to get up early. The best I can do it 8am but there better be a something worthwhile waiting there for me. Luckily Angkor Wat is definitely worth it and even though photos from the morning hours don’t do it justice and make it look flad, almost two-dimensional, it is still an architectual and artistic masterpiece with amazing carvings on the walls that can be photographed at any time of the day. Enjoy the gallery – pictures of Angkor taken during afternoon light when the sun illuminates the face, as well as during sun set and rain are in separate galleries:
When I first met Ha’sfour year old daughter, the little girl was crying. I had some chewing gums on me so I gave her the pack which made her stop. I don’t know exactly why she was crying, but I know that she was nothing like I expected. I went to meet with Ha’s daughter anticipating a spoiled kid that screams all the time and acts like a general irritation, but she was none of that.
I will leave the pictures in a gallery below to speak on my behalf. Even if you were like me – someone who used to perceive kids as sheer annoyance, you would instantly start seeing children as a blessing, instead of a curse. This girl was the embodiment of cuteness and was well behaved and respectful. She was nothing like the kids from the plane. I was reluctant to go spend time with a kid, but after experiencing her bubbly personality, I actually had to pull my camera out and snap some pictures so I can print some for Ha.
Realizing the hardship Ha told me about, I felt even more inclined to try to seek for solution and help so they don’t have to spend their lives running and hiding. This little girl should go to school and get education. She should also get some medical care, including dental care because that cavity in her front tooth spoils otherwise gorgeous smile. This girl deserves to enjoy her childhood and go out to have fun with her friends. But for this to happen, something would have to get fixed. The two are constantly on the move so she can’t make any friends and because they don’t have any money, their health issues are not looked after. They can’t afford a toothbrush or a toothpaste so cavities are inevitable. And that makes their story so much sadder.
Because father of this girl is an American, she doesn’t look obviously Vietnamese. WHile she does have some Vietnamese features, she’s a Caucasian cross with dark eyes.
I wanted to take Ha to the Royal Independence Gardens – my favourite place in Siem Reap. I really like it there so I thought she’d enjoy it too. And since it was a beautiful day I was not gonna use to go to Angkor Wat, I thought of at least taking my camera with a telephoto lens to the gardens and try to snap some pictures of the Fruit Bats Flying so the day doesn’t go to waste entirely.
I fully realized that taking pictures of the Fruit Bats flying during the day was not gonna be easy, but I still wanted to give it a try. Bats are nocturnal animals so coming to them during daytime would mean catching them in the middle of sleep but with a little bit of patience, I may be able to see some of them flying. From what I have noticed, Fruit Bats are pretty vicious with one another and fight a lot when they are supposed to sleep. As a result, one is bound to take flight and move from one branch of the tree to another. That was gonna be my opportunity which I really didn’t want to pass on so I can complement the pictures of Fruit Bats sleeping with pictures of them flying.
Obviously, because of how high in the trees they dwell, it was gonna be difficult to get a decent close up photo even with a telephoto lens mounted on the camera. Armed with a great deal of patience, I’ve explained to Ha that the gardens are truly beautiful and the shriek of Fruit Bats magical so we were gonna stick around and enjoy the heat while I would keep my camera on standby to snap a photo should any of the sleeping flying foxes get awaken and take flight. The pictures in the gallery below capture these beautiful, huge bats flying against the blue Cambodian sky:
When I first came to the Royal independence Gardens during the day to take pictures of Flying Foxes, I had wide angle lens with me. That proved contra productive as flying foxes dwell high up in tall trees making it impossible to get a decent close up done. So I ended up only taking pictures of trees where these Fruit Bats dwell (their natural habitat in Siem Reap, Cambodia) and went back to the guesthouse to mount my telephoto lens on so I can zoom in a bit on them huge bats. Below is the picture gallery of those Flying Fox Bats.
Granted, Flying Foxes are bats so they sleep during the day. Being nocturnal animals, they get active to feed after dusk and that’s when the shriek around the Royal independence Gardens heavily intensifies. However, the presence of Flying Foxes is apparent even during daytime hours and one can see them fighting or having sex on virtually every visit no matter what time of day it is. Bat fights are kind of funny because the opponents would still be in a position in which they sleep – upside down, but they would spread their huge wings wide to intimidate the opponent and would do their best to outshriek each other. There are thousands of them in Siem Reap so there is a bat fight on any given moment during the day.
Without further ado, this is the Flying Fox Bats Picture Gallery showing the blood suckers sleeping during the day:
Wat Keseram pagoda got me confused right from the start. Half of native Cambodians as well as half of guides refer to it as Wat Keseram while other half calls it Wat Kesararam. Which one is correct is hard to tell. There seems to be no conclusive settlement and nobody but me seemed bothered by inconsistencies in the name. It’s still one and the same pagoda it’s only known under two different, albeit similar names. The only common name for it is English translation of it: “Pagoda of the Cornflower Petals”. I leave it up to you to choose which name you want to call it – Wat Keseram or Wat Kesararam. Either way, below is the gallery of photos of this majestic pagoda.
As you will be able to tell from the photo gallery below, Wat Damnak is one of the most beautiful pagodas in Siem Reap and Cambodia all together. While today it serves as a pagoda, it was once a royal palace, which explains its magnificence. That’s also where name Wat Damnak comes from. In Khmer language, Dam Nak means Palace. Former Cambodian king – King Sisowath used Dam Nak as his residence.
This photo gallery contains pictures of Preah Ang Chek Preah Ang Chorm Shrine in the Royal Independence Gardens in Siem Reap taken at night. This was also the first night of Pchum Ben Festival so the shrine was being continuously flooded with Cambodians bringing offerings for the Buddha and food for the dead. Few stalls selling decorated flower bouquets, decorated coconuts, burning incense sticks and live birds were nearby so devotees can purchase those for use within the temple. There was a band with traditional Khmer instruments set on the shrine floor playing traditional Khmer music. Few monks were seated on the side to give people blessings and take offerings of food and clothes from devoted Buddhists. Inside a small room, there were two statues of Buddha and people were hanging flower rings on them, touching their hands or just leaving other offerings at their feet. Hundreds upon hundreds of incense sticks were being lit up and burned in a large ashtray. The smoke from these could be smelled and seen half a mile away. Devotees also prey before the Buddha images with their palms joined together for a prayer while burning incense sticks are held between the palms. Preah Ang Chek Preah Ang Chorm Shrine is a small, but nicely located and beautifully built shrine that enjoys vast popularity among people of Siem Reap. The gallery is below: