From all Angkor temples, Bayon was one of our favorites and the best known for being characterized by 200 carved smiling faces on its towers. Considered the “Mona Lisa of Southeast Asia”, some scholars state, the statues portray the face of Buddha, the smiles and closed eyes possibly represent “an all-knowing state of inner peace, and perhaps a state of Nirvana.” Others, however, believe the faces represent the ruler Jayavarman VII himself, as the resemblance is similar to other images of the king.
Ta Prohm – Used as the movie set of Tomb Raider with Angelina Jolie and not as spectacular as we thought, probably because it was overcrowded. It is one of the most visited temples and well recognizable by the twisted tree that sits on the ruins.
Preah Khan – Like the nearby Ta Prohm temple, has been left largely unrestored, with numerous trees growing among the ruins, blocks of stone lie in piles, and you get the same feel you would in Ta Prohm but with fewer people.
Pre Rup (meaning “turn the body”) – There is not so much information about this temple, but there are rumors saying, this temple was used for funeral ceremonies.
This temple-mountain is also used to escape the crowds during sunrise and sunset. For us it was not so impressive, it was much more magical and interesting being inside the temples with less people catching the most dramatic light of the day.
Ta Som – Little is known about the history and purpose of Ta Som. It was likely dedicated to Jayavarman VII’s father, although some have speculated that it may have been dedicated to one of his teachers. This place is relatively small compared with other temples built in the Angkor complex.
Neak Peak – Originally known as Rajyasri (meaning “kingdom’s brightness” or “rule’s bless”), is a small temple different from most of the other temples in the complex. Historians believe it was built as a hospital. A central,artificial lake is surrounded by four smaller lagoons, supposedly each representing one of the four elements: fire, water, and earth. Not so impressive as the others we saw, but the path to get there is quite nice.
Phnom Bakheng (Phnom means “little hill”) – A short distance from the Angkor Wat Temple and a good high spot for sunset watching. Being one of the oldest temples from the Angkor era, it served as a temple mountain in honor of the Hindu god Shiva.
Phimeanakas or Vimeanakas (meaning “celestial temple”) – Is a small, Hindu temple in the shape of a three stepped pyramid, located in the center of the Royal Palace courtyard and used by King Jayavarman VII as his private temple.
It is true, no photo or video can show how spectacular the temples of the Angkor complex are. For sure they will trigger any Indiana Jones or Lara Croft in you, a rare serendipitous combination of adventure, mysticism and beauty playing together in harmony.