Directly north of Angkor Wat, is the more-gigantic city of Angkor Thom. Surrounded by another gigantic moat, and nested within an imposing stone wall, whose portals bear the mysteriously-smiling face of bodhisattva Lokesvara (but it could be any number of people — jury’s still out).

IMG_4219IMG_4221IMG_4223The temple was built in the late 12th or early 13th century by Jayavarman VII, a king who is known for his building sprees and took the Angkor empire to its greatest extents.

The Bayon temple sits in the center of Angkor Thom, and 37 spooky towers bearing the face of (supposedly) King Jayavarman VII, or maybe his mother? Or maybe bodhisattva Lokesvara? Or maybe a combination of all of these?  The result is an incredible space with a very intimate scale.

The galleries are nested very close to one another, and the main temple pyramid rises dramatically out of the center. I was so captivated by all of the faces and the scale of the walkways and stairs. The faces feel so close, but out of touch. They are both smiling and judging, I felt like I was in another world during the visit.IMG_4244IMG_4224

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Piles of temple rubble — some of the temples were dismantled during the ascent of the Khmer Rouge to prevent destruction, and were reconstructed in the 90s when Angkor Wat became a UNESCO World Heritage Site

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A very intimate scale

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I was continually surprised by just how many places visitors are allowed to sit, climb, visit and view in these ancient structures. I mean sure, they stood up to centuries of use and weathering, but it still boggles me.

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Inside a tower
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This was my favorite view in the whole space — the layers of towers and the various angles at which one views those enigmatic faces made it a great place to sketch.

I could have spent a week puttering around this temple, sketching every face and finding interesting enclosed spaces in which to contemplate the human condition. Definitely worth a visit!!!

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