While Angkor Wat is the better known of all the temple complexes in Cambodia, there are others that are a must. Bayon is one of those. It is imposing and a veritable maze, making it fun to explore. Bayon (built in the 12th-13th century period) sits in the middle of Angkor Thom which was the capital of the Khmer Empire back when (it is said between 80-150K people lived there at its peak back then). Bayon was at the center of that capital city as its most important temple. If you look at a map, the moat around Angkor Thom is much larger than the one around Angkor Wat. (All these sites got “lost” in the early 1600s for a few centuries.) Movies like Lara Croft: Tomb Raider have had scenes shot at Angkor Thom.
We approached Angkor Thom and had a great view of the wall around Angkor Thom and a bridge (or causeway) decorated on either side with sitting statues. One drives through a gate that towers at the end of the bridge with each side of the tower carved with the face of a divinity. I believe we went through the south gate.
In any case, one approaches the main temple at Angkor Thom, Bayon, among a green field with palm trees. Having first seen Angkor Wat with its dramatic towers and monumentality, Bayon felt a little less imposing yet so different it looked magnificent.
From then we walked around different former hallways and around many towers and carvings. It is said Bayon is more baroque while Angkor Wat is more classical Khmer style. I am not an expert but certainly can tell that Bayon was much more loaded with carvings and more elaborate. Bayon is certainly striking due to the many towers carved on four sides with faces of deities or other figures but it lacked the big open spaces within it that Angkor Wat had.
As in many places, it is fun to watch other tourists engage with the site – and take their photo while they do so 🙂
While Angkor Wat is overall more imposing, Bayon is definitely different enough to warrant the time to explore it – hope you get to do so!