Baphuon would have been one of the most spectacular of Angkor's tem-ples in its heyday. Located 200m northwest of Bayon, it's a pyramidal representation of mythical Mt Meru. Construction probably began under Suryavarman I and was later completed by Udayadityavarman II (r 1049– 65). It marked the centre of the city that existed before the construction of Angkor Thom. Baphuon was the centre of EFEO restoration efforts when the Cambodian civil war erupted and work paused for a quarter of a century. The temple was taken apart piece by piece, in keeping with the anastylosis method of renovation, but all the records were destroyed during the Khmer Rouge years, leaving experts with the world's largest jigsaw puzzle. The EFEO resumed a 10-year restoration programme in 1995, which is running behind schedule but will see the temple reopen some time during the lifetime of this book. Baphuon is approached by a 200m elevated walkway made of sandstone, and the central structure is 43m high. On the western side of the temple is the retaining wall of the second level. The wall was fashioned – apparently in the 15th or 16th century – into a reclining Buddha 60m in length. The unfinished figure is quite difficult to make out, but the head is on the northern side of the wall and the gate is where the hips should be; to the left of the gate protrudes an arm. When it comes to the legs and feet – the latter are entirely gone – imagination must suffice. This huge project was undertaken by the Buddhist faithful around 500 years ago, which reinforces the fact that Angkor was never entirely abandoned.
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