Meandering aroundthe maze-like interior of the famous Bayon temple was truly an experience. I can understand why the word bayon in Khmer translates to “magic”; it was a miracle I only got lost thrice inside the cavernous 825 year-old structure. Bayon was the last stone temple built
during the Khmer empire, but King Jayavarman VII definitely saved the best for last. It is surrounded by two long walls bearing an extraordinary collection of bas-relief scenes of legendary and historical events. In all, there are more than 11,000 carved figures. As is common throughout Angkor, they were originally gilded, but the varnish has long since faded. Bayon is also famously known for its huge stone faces of a Buddhist bodhisattva, or deity. The faces, 216 in total, smiled down on me rather curiously while I sat among the ruins, as if they were withholding some divine secret.
Those smirking faces resembled the countless other Khmer faces that had greeted me throughout the country. The resemblance made me think: what does God look like? Surely, Michelangelo had gotten it right when he painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Or maybe the Pende people of Zaire have the more accurate depiction of God in their wooden masks. Or maybe the Mayans are correct in their imagery of God. Or maybe…?