National Geographic : 2000 Aug
him deep in meditation, smiling with half closed eyes, detached from worldly things, and yet he embarked on vast building projects to his own glory that required the labor of hundreds of thousands, many of whom were slaves. He also kept hundreds of concubines. Just north of Angkor Wat, Jayavarman built a walled city of temples, pools, and terraces Angkor Thom, or Great City. At the center he raised his state temple, the Bayon. If Angkor Wat is the classical Khmer ideal, the Bayon is its Gothic sibling, replete with crooked passageways, dark galleries, forests of stone pillars. Fifty-four towers rise from its ramparts, each carved with four gigantic, smil ing faces. The French archaeologist Maurice Glaize called it a "muddle of stones, a sort of moving chaos assaulting the sky." Visited at night under a full moon, wreathed in mist, with bats streaming from its dark towers, the Bayon offers its own eerie kind of charm. Unlike at Angkor Wat, in the Bayon we finally meet the common folk of ancient Cam bodia. The bas-reliefs, full of vitality and irrev erent humor, depict such daily activities as cockfights with bookies taking bets, an ascetic LOOTERS BEHEADED a devata and have removed countless other artifactsto sell in the lucra tive marketfor stolen antiquities.Angkor's managers have mobilized a securityforce-afirst for a World Heritagesite. Guards have helped reduce theft at Angkor Wat, but looters now plunder other sites, such as an ancient wall at Banteay Chhmar near the Thai border (above right).