The Many Faces of Angkor Thom and Bayon ~ Siem Reap, Cambodia

I’m in Cambodia at the moment with four gifted professional photographers and thirteen talented amateurs. All I can say is this: Thank heavens I’m not taking pictures for my living! It’s not that my photos are bad – well, not all of them – it is just that those taken by everyone else are extraordinary.

Line of stone kmer gods, South Gate, Angkor Thom

Khmer Gods line the right side of the bridge to South Gate, Angkor Thom, 12C

Our photographic mentors and tour leaders, Karl Grobl, Gavin Gough, Marco Ryan and Matt Brandon have kept us busy chasing light in what can only be described as an aspiring photographer’s paradise: gentle, smiling, photography-friendly people, impossibly green landscapes, and the mystical, magical ruins spanning 400 years of Khmer civilisation. Week one of our trip, which we spent in and around the temples of Angkor, culminated in a program of slides showcasing everyone’s photo-stories. The themes of the stories demonstrated the breath of our group: there were stories about temples, about people’s lives, about tattoos, about the arts, about tuk-tuks and their drivers, etc. Mine was on schooling and education (no surprise to anyone who knows me) and I’ll probably share bits of that in weeks to come.

Our schedule has been gruelling, as we have alternated between the classroom and location shoots. Any free time I’ve had has been spent trying to come to grips with new technologies, which are always two or more steps ahead of me, and dealing with temperamental computer systems, which have been threatening to fail. So, I’m running… I guess I’ll process it all (photographically and metaphorically) when I return home next week.

In the mean time, I’ll share some of the faces of Bayon and the South Gate, Angkor Thom.

Row of stone khmer gods, South Gate, Angkor Thom

Gods on the Right... South Gate, Angkor Thom, 12C

Close-up of a Khmer demon, South Gate, Angkor Thom

Demons on the left... South Gate, Angkor Thom, 12C

Five male khmer workers on two motorcycles, South Gate, Angkor Thom

Workers in the middle... South Gate, Angkor Thom

Golden long-boats with pheasant-head prows, Angkor Thom moat

Golden Pheasant Long Boats, Angkor Thom Moat

The Face of South Gate, Angkor Thom against the sky.

The Bayon-style (1181-1243) South Gate stands twenty-three meters high. The faces look out over King Jayavarman VIIs domain in all four directions. Angkor Thom.

We visited the Bayon temple in Angkor Thom on two separate occasions, and I never tire of it. My problem is deciding which of the almost-exactly-the-same pictures to select and keep!

Wide-angle view of The Bayon

Paying tribute to a pantheon of gods from Hinduism and early Buddhism, the Bayon was built in the early 1200's. Thirty-seven of the original fourty-nine (or fifty-four?) Bayon towers are still standing.

Two large stone Bodhisattva faces

In the Bayon, you are surrounded by the enigmatic smiles of the Bodhisattva of Universal Compassion. No one is sure exactly how many faces there are!

Portrait: Khmer female, Bayon

The smiles of the temple workers are just as warming.

A Khmer woman lights candles and incense for temple offerings

Lighting the Temple Fires

Khmer woman seated in candle light next to a Buddhist shrine

Candle Light and Incense Burning

Sitting Buddha in Gold Cloth

One of several Buddhist shrines hidden in Bayon's maze.

Looking down on a bronze-coloured Buddha image

Buddha's Blessings

Young khmer male in straw hat

Student Worker, Bayon

Composite: Khmer granny with beetle-nut smile and Bodhisattva, Bayon

More Smiles: Beetle-nut Granny and Bodhisattva

Large stone  Bodhisattva image, Bayon

Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva, the Mahayana Buddhist ideal of Compassion

Large stone Bodhisattva statue, Bayon

Last smile of the Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva 'Lokesvara' for today...

Two khmer boys, Bayon

Entry to the temples is free to Cambodians and it is nice to see families enjoying their heritage.

Soles of two feet on a tuk-tuk arm-rest

Tuk-tuk drivers rest until their customers return from the temples


Until next time, may you keep smiling and may the Bodhisattva smile on you.

Happy Travels!


  • gabe - July 21, 2011 - 11:23 pm

    Ursula, you’re absolutely correct. Never get tired of the photo’s. I especilly like the photo of the keeper of the light, the laughing elderly lady and the two boys at the end. The perspective behind them is cool. Way to go.ReplyCancel

  • Signe Westerberg - July 21, 2011 - 11:54 pm

    I have come to love my Friday morning trips to unknown places, well unknown to me that is. What a wonderful way to start my day, enjoying the wonderful photo’s and the magic descriptions. I am blessed, thank you.ReplyCancel

    • Ursula - July 21, 2011 - 11:58 pm

      Heartfelt thanks to my two most vocal readers! I’m so happy to have you both along. 🙂ReplyCancel

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