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Angkor VIP tour - Baphuon「ប្រាសាទបាពួន」

Baphuon temple, ancient Angkor
  • Date: Mid 11th century
  • Style: Bapuon
  • Highlights:  Intricate carvings, huge size, temple mountain with varied elements that combine Hindu with surprise Buddhist elements. One of our favourites.

Baphuon started as Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva 'the destructor' just like Elephanta Caves, which are reachable from the Gateway of India in Mumbai - that I never really found time to visit despite spending 3 weeks there.

Hinduism also has a trinity:
  • Brahma the creator, often depicted as 4-faced man, like towers in Bayon.
  • Vishnu the preserver, often presented as a 4 armed man, but also appears incarnated in 10 different avatars, that we have met in art or previous trips like Kurma the turtle who churns the sea of milk; Rama, the star of Ramayana loved from Thailand to Bali; Krishna who rights wrongs and brings happiness to the world; Buddha at least for Vaishnava Hindu who belief the human ascetic Gautama Buddha to be an avatar), he rides the Garuda
  • Shiva the destroyer, by no means a negative force - with his dance, Shiva ends a kalpa and begins a new one, often wearing Vasuki snake on the neck.
Baphuon it is the archetype of the Baphuon style with intricate carvings covering every available surface. The temple is huge 120mx100m at its base and stands 34m - estimated 50 with the tower which is no longer there, adjoins the southern enclosure of the royal palace. Its appearance apparently impressed Chou Ta-kuan, an envoy from Yuan dynasty of China during his visit from 1296 to 1297, who said it was 'the Tower of Bronze a truly astonishing spectacle, with more than ten chambers at its base.'

Baphuon temple, ancient Angkor
As usual, the entrance consist of a moat to represent the sea surrounding Mount Meru.
Baphuon temple, ancient Angkor
Baphuon temple, ancient Angkor
Now we can only see the remainder of the short pillars that once supported a causeway.
Baphuon temple, ancient Angkor
After the first climb, intricate carvings welcome us, some of them picturing Shiva.
Baphuon temple, ancient Angkor
Baphuon temple, ancient Angkor
Baphuon temple, ancient Angkor
Walking around, one comes to the realization of the main tower being missing from the top. Either it fell by itself, as the temple is quite unstable due to its size and sandy grounds, or was taken down as part of the rebranding of the site.
Baphuon temple, ancient Angkor
When it's not possible to climb any further...
Baphuon temple, ancient Angkor
... we took a deep breath while admiring the ironically breathtaking views (including the cover shot).
Baphuon temple, ancient Angkor
Time to come down and walk around.
Baphuon temple, ancient Angkor
Today we know that 500 years after its creation, Baphuon was converted into a Buddhist temple with a 9m high by 70m long statue of a reclining Buddha built on the west side wall on the second level - I saw the Buddha's face while walking from the back, told Enrique who deemed me crazy.
Baphuon temple, ancient Angkor
Do you see it too?

By the 20th century, much of the temple built on land filled with sand had largely collapsed. A large-scale anastylosis project - dismantle the temple, reinforce the core, reconstruct the whole thing again - was abandoned after civil war broke out in 1970, with all plans identifying the pieces getting lost during the dark decades of war and Khmer Rouge genocide that followed. Workers and archaeologists were forced to leave 300,000 numbered blocks organised across 10 hectares surrounding the temple.

A second project to restore the temple was launched in 1996 under the guidance of architect Pascal Royère, it took the team another 16 years to complete what had become known as the largest 3D jigsaw puzzle in the world. In April 2011, after 51 years of work from the original start, restoration was completed and the temple formally re-opened.

Baphuon temple, ancient Angkor
This should certainly help.
Baphuon temple, ancient Angkor
After exiting Baphuon, we walked back to the meeting point with the driver bumping into Phimenakas  which is a Hindu temple in the Khleang style (end of 10th century) also located in the Angkor Thom Royal Palace enclosure.
Baphuon temple, ancient Angkor
Without being told to do so by the driver - here's why you need a guide, we unknowingly explored the Terrace of the Elephants (not pictured) and the Terrace of the Leper King where a statue of Dharma, the Hindu god of the underworld coronates an extremely intricate terrace with Kings and consorts in the outer side but creatures of the underworld - including nagas - in the hidden wall. Both are believed to be from the 13th century, as they feature Bayon style.
Baphuon temple, ancient Angkor
Baphuon temple, ancient Angkor

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