Francesco Benvenuti, special envoy Newsfood, tells us about his Cambodia
GPS Coordinates (taken just before the temple)
One of the most impressive places of all the Angkor archaeological park is the cluster of monuments that are in the area around both the Bayon temple, and the Terrace of the Elephants. On the
west of the Terrace of the Elephants (on the left of a tourist that comes to the Terrace of the Elephants, from the Bayon Temple), just next to the beginning of the very Terrace, the tourist
can see a small stairway.
When I entered the Terrace of the Elephants, I decided to follow this stairway. First I noticed the three-trunks elephants carved on the sides, then some demons, holding the second stage on their
shoulders. From the top of the stairway, there is a very beautiful sight of the Terrace. If it is a sunny day, it can be impressive to see that broad open space.
In the opposite side of the top of the wall, opens a gateway, which generic name is “Gopura”, leading deep to west. As soon as I seen it, I was tempted to see what’s there, and I went through the
gate. As soon as I passed through it, I found myself into a long causeway. You can see it in the second picture of this group. This way, made of huge laterite bocks, is higher that the ground,
and it lies on a very long series of columns. On the end of it, there’s a majestic structure. An hill-sized temple. That is the Baphoun temple.
When I seen the temple, I felt the need to see it from close, and I started walking toward it. The long way, is deep into a peaceful setting. On the sides high walls close the access to it, and
two big swimming-pools, one on each side, make it look even more peaceful. While walking toward it, I felt like that everybody was stunned by the huge temple, and nobody was speaking. The silence
was only broken by the sound of the nature and the Khmer children that were asking us to buy something from them. You can see some of them in the third picture of this group. The most I was
getting close, the most I felt its size. But then, when I reached it, I also had some disappointment too. The monument is under a deep restoration. Many people that wrote guide-books say that the
restoration is going on from so many years that the fence and the cranes are becoming part of the temple itself. This long restoration is going on because it was built quite badly, on the wrong
spot and to make matter worse, both the nature and human armies did their best on destroying it. The temple wasn’t all human-made, but it was just a covering of the small hill hidden under it.
So, with the centuries, the weight of the stones and bad-made foundations along with the soft soil of the hill beneath the temple, brought to a collapse of the structure. The restoration of the
temple needs to disassembly the very temple, to remake the foundations using steel and concrete, and then, to rebuilt the temple, placing the stones in the right spot. Now, if you walk around it,
you can find your way to a big reclining Buddha. If you keep going your way toward the forest behind of the temple, you’ll see an endless amount of stones scattered on the ground. Each of them
has a number, and they’ll be brought back in their place when the works will be finished.
This temple was very important at the times of the Khmer empire, as it was the house of the golden Shiva-Linga. The symbol of the Linga, was placed on the top of it, to bless the whole city. The
Baphoun, when the city was alive, should have been amazing, as was described by Mr. Zhou Daguan “About a li (about 500 metres) north of the gold tower (the Bayon temple) there is a bronze tower.
It is even taller than the gold tower, and an exquisite sight. At the foot there are, again, several dozen stone chambers”. This massive temple, recalls to the memory the outline, both of the
Phnom Bakeng and also the outside walls of Angkor Wat. The ageless temple and the peaceful spot around it, brought to me a really deep sense of inner peace.
Francesco Benvenuti per Newsfood.com