Kissing, Creepy Faces and the Bayon Temple of Siem Reap

I watched the two tourists take photos from afar. It was weird because he was puckering his lips, like in a duck face and I usually only see duck poses from teenage girls. Hm. I turn away, careful not to give out any rude signs or anything.

I turn a corner, only to be surprised by another group of tourists who were doing the same.

What are they doing?” I ask my hostelmate as I caught up with them somewhere around the widely spaced temple.

“Not sure,” my hostelmate said, also puzzled as she watched the tourists make kissy faces into the air.

We had entered the gates of Angkor Thom just before and admired the row of deities that lined the entrance. But lazy us couldn’t even get up to take pictures there. Instead, we allowed our tuktuk driver to drive us straight into Bayon Temple. Along the way, we passed by a road outlined by trees, most decorated with little monkeys at the side. Cute. But in our fear of engaging them a little too much, we didn’t stop to ogle at them either.

bayon

Out of all the temples we went to, Bayon must be the smallest in size. However, out of all the temples as well, Bayon didn’t have the trees towering over its roof or even a solid overhead for sun protection. And at 9am, I was bound to need the sunscreen soon.

From its side, we spotted some people restoring, renovating a part of Bayon. As we entered the temple, I realized this (September), was possibly the best time to do all the renovating, especially before the peak season.

bayon

Bayon, from afar, had a wide facade, with a lone entrance currently supported by wooden foundations. Beyond its entrance was a beautiful set of figures that outline its back. From there, I couldn’t make out the design just yet.

Only when we finally entered and climbed the steep stairs to the main area that I finally figured out what the designs were.

They were…

FACES. 

Yep, creepy, slightly eerie faces that stare at your back as you walk along them.

bayon

Each tower, built with (well, I’m not exactly sure what the material is) some kind of cement or material that looked as if it eventually faded into white, some were molded with green, had a face on each side.

Besides the faces, the temple also had areas for offering gods and goddesses incense. Sellers of incense often flocked these areas though and it would be a mistake to catch their eye, as they would believe this is a sign that you’re interested in buying. Most of the time, I completely avoid their gaze, despite a slow, respectful smile emitted by my mouth automatically.

As the sun slowly fixed itself above us, I found myself entertained by how the structures looked with the blue skies as its background.

Each face looked magnificent and powerful.

We encircled the temple, slowly, each time crossing a bunch of tourists doing the same kissy pose.

Some entrances were already being renovated, with wood foundation to add to the possibly slowly cracking original cement foundation.

Looking carefully, just like Angkor Wat, this temple also had exquisite designs. The windows, the doors had beautiful, classic engravings surrounding it. Parts of it was slowly turning white or dark, depending on what the original color had been.

When we exited on one side of the temple, we ventured out onto what looked like old courts in the ancient temple. We circled it, and I could smell the dampness of the place.

My hostelmate ran his hand over a part of the wall that had holes. I hadn’t noticed those holes before. But he had, apparently.

He turned to us, a rather intelligent expression on his face.

What do you think these could’ve been?” he asked.

My other hostelmate and I shrugged, as we both didn’t really notice the holes as much.

I think they used to be gems. Or diamonds,” he finished and he ran his hand for a final inquisitive inspection.

Hm. I hadn’t thought of it. But these temples were made for kings and gods and goddesses so it was possible. And with so many holes (that only now I realized when I went through my photos again) practically everywhere, it would be an understandable part of the design.

I could only imagine how even more beautiful this temple must’ve been when the diamonds or gems were still there.

Unfortunately, keeping real gems and diamonds in a highly touristic place would be dumb, especially when these pieces are scarce nowadays.

We followed my hostelmate around the temple and into narrow entrances.

With the dampness of the cement and the seriously-feeling unstable foundation of some parts of this temple, I thought I felt myself heave for a short moment as I effortlessly went through a narrow exit.

We found ourselves on the other side of the temple where I was able to take a good shot of the entire Bayon temple.

bayon

Magnificent. I say to myself. Curious and magnificent. 

 

Brenna is the sole owner of The Philippine Travelogue, an online journal of her travel adventures and experiences. Brenna is a freelance writer, online marketing and social media specialist and a blogger with a constant itch for adventure and thrill. For inquiries, suggestions and invitations please send a message.

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