Eyes closed, they faced the scorching 37°C summer morning with a smile.
Our guide said that when Jayavarman the VIIth was building the Angkor Thom, he decided to adorn the centrepiece, the Bayon Temple with 216 (no less) faces of himself, as a representation of the Buddha. 64 towers in the main Bayon temple are topped by 4 huge stone faces of the King (or Buddha), one looking in each direction. As you sweat and bake in the sweltering heat, the faces continue smiling serenely and obliviously.
The temple itself has witnessed a few changes of faith over the centuries – from Buddhism to Hinduism and back, and roaming around the temple, you’ll come across remnants of crude alterations in the sculptures and carvings to transform them according to the prevailing religion of the time. The Bayon is indeed the centrepiece of the Angkor Thom; and as you walk around with your camera taking innumerable pictures of the 200+ identical faces, you can’t help but feel that though separated by centuries, the Emperor and you were, somewhat, united by a common muse.
The Emperor-Buddha face greets queues of visitors at the South Gate, Angkor Thom
The temple from afar, engulfed in a heat haze at 10 in the morning
How many faces can you count?
They’re everywhere you look
Stone-faced but smiling
P.S. Angkor Thom is 7 km from Siem Reap, your base for exploring the Angkor area and is easily reached by a tuktuk, that you can hire (with driver) for the day for 15-20 USD. The Angkor Pass works and will be checked so don’t forget to carry it along. Apart from Bayon, explore Phimeanakas, Baphuon, the Terrace of Lepers and the Terrace of the Elephant King and make a day trip out of it.
Shopping for clothes is serious business in India. Try taking a stroll in one of the more famous local textile markets or bazaars in India on a Saturday and you’ll know that this isn’t a task for the faint of heart.
Lanes upon lanes of little shops snake through the labyrinth markets in all directions, crowded by women with hands full of shopping bags and buying appetites still not satiated; and shelves overflowing with fabrics of every type, every print and every color imaginable.
This photo was taken on one such Saturday afternoon in one of the many almost-identical stores in a New Delhi market, unwillingly having to brave the mad rush.
The Cappadocian landscape is legendary as a ‘moon-land’ and ‘unearthly’. But all those brown and other earth tones can start to look all the same after a few days. Breaking the monotony are the vivid colors of the local pottery, one of the other things that Cappadocia is famous for.
If you’re keen, you could even try your hand at a pottery / ceramics workshop in Avanos, the pottery hub of the region – and buy at source, so you’re sure your Cappadocian souvenir isn’t made in China!
The Angkor Wat was built as a Hindu temple, supposedly dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the Protector. Over many generations and time, the King’s descendants’ faith swayed towards Buddhism. So even though most of the main temple retains its Hindu characteristics, the new buildings in the complex are definitively Buddhist. As we were drifting around the compound, looking for a spot of shade, we chanced upon this Buddhist temple – plain and unadorned in comparison to the Angkor Wat, but a symbol of Cambodia’s present juxtaposed with its past.
Chofas are characteristic to Buddhist temples in and around Thailand – these horn-like roof ornaments are usually gilded in the Thai versions, but this one’s were rather modest; and three intact, one broken.