The Monks of the Bayon
Angkor Thom, Cambodia
Shot - December, 2015
I will never forget the moment this image happened. I was on holiday with my family in Siem Reap to visit Angkor, the ancient capital of the Khmer empire.
I had studied Angkor in my Uni days, so was thrilled to be in this fabled, mystical place. I won't get into too much of the history here though as it's all been done far better than I could ever do it.
This photo was taken at the Bayon, the temple at the center of King Jayarvarman VII's (c.1122-1218) capital city, Angkor Thom.
The temple was originally built as a Buddhist temple, then became Hindu, and flipped back to being Buddhist., in line with the changing religion of the Khmer empire.
The 200+ famous carved faces with their whimsical smiles, each the height of a full grown person, are thought to be either a likeness of the King, or bodhisattva of compassion ,Avalokitesvara, or both.
We crossed the moat, passed through the narrow gate house and entered the complex from the direction of Angkor Wat, to the south. We motored down the long avenue flanked by lush jungle in the TukTuk. The area is so dense with trees that the temple only leaps into view when you are right on it.
This video will give you an idea of how it looks.
There were far fewer people when we there, another stroke of luck.
We were dropped off at the south east corner of the temple. The visual chaos and extravagance of the temple is almost overwhelming. Spires, turrets, towers, and three storeys of alcoves, terraces and galleries.
Angkor-scholar Maurice Glaize.
It stands in stark contrast to it's classical neighbour, Angkor Wat, a testament to the creativity and ego of it's creator.
I looked into the temple from a gap in the surrounding wall and the scene in the main photo was laid out before me. The setting sun created a chiaroscuro effect brushing the facade and picking out the carved faces.
It was a beautiful scene in itself, but it lacked something. As that thought was rattling around in my head a saffron monk appeared at the top of the stairs. I could not believe my luck.
I held my breath, expecting a tourist to pop out and get in the frame. But the monk proceeded down the stairs. I kept snapping away, no tourists, and then the second monk appeared! I felt like some higher power had gifted me this moment, it was such an effortless, perfect moment.
Random historic image I found while digging around on the web.