Bakong TempleThe Bakong Temple in the beautiful city of Angkor is a landmark monument in Cambodia. Made around 300 years before the internationally renowned Angkor Wat temple complex, this temple has somewhat remained in the shadows of Cambodia’s most popular tourist attraction.
However, with an increasing number of curious tourists and travelers visiting Cambodia each year, Bakong has started garnering a healthy dose of popularity.
So if you are curious about Bakong Temple, then let this article serve you as your time-machine. We are going to take a look back down memory lane and understand the significance of the Bakong Temple.
An Architectural Landmark in Ancient AngkorWhile you would find scores of temple mountains in today’s Cambodia, it’s quite surprising to think that once, temple mountains didn’t exist in Angkor. However, the absence of temple mountains came to an end during the 9th century, when King Indravarman commissioned the construction of Bakong Temple.
The temple was mostly made of sandstone and archaeologists claim that this was one of the Angkor Empire’s first prominent sandstone constructions. The use of sandstone would feature heavily in the temples that were constructed following the glory days of Bakong, making it known world over as the signature of the Khmer architectural style.
Read More: Angkor Wat Architecture
Once the State Temple of the Angkor EmpireAngkor Wat came to the forefront of ancient Angkor’s religious monuments much later than Bakong did. After Bakong Temple’s construction was completed, the temple became King Indravarman I’s state temple in the then-seat of the Angkor Empire’s power, the ancient city of Hariharalaya. At present, the area that was once Hariharalaya is known as Roluos.
A Hindu Temple Inspired by a Buddhist Temple in a Far-away LandHinduism and Buddhism share many similarities and not just in their religious ideologies. The work of archaeologists and conservators has revealed that the Bakong Temple shares a plethora of similarities with the Indonesian temple of Borobudur.
Located on the island of Java, Borobudur is the largest Buddhist temple in the world. Some of the similarities Bakong shares with Borobudur are the stairs and gateways constructed to reach the upper terraces share striking similarities.
The arched gateways constructed through the use of the corbelling method suggests that back in the days of King Indravarman I’s reign, the relations between the Khmers and Java’s Sailendra Dynasty was strong.
Travelers from both places would frequently share information with one another and by the looks of the Bakong Temple. It would seem that they had really detailed conversations regarding the architectural aspects of Borobudur.
The Tranquil Environment of Bakong Temple
A Precursor to the Construction of Angkor WatBakong Temple was not just a temple that was inspired in its creation, it went on to inspire as well. When comparing the construction work of different temples in the city of Angkor, archaeologists found that there are several similarities between the Bakong and the main Angkor Wat temple.
While the main Angkor Wat temple is much grander than Bakong Temple in terms of size and architecture work, the latter was surely the first of its kind; a precursor to the days when the Khmer architects would bring the world to notice its prowess.
Reconstruction Hides Some of Its Former GloryLike most other temples that currently make up the Angkor Archaeological Park, Bakong too was restored in the 1930s thanks to the work of French explorers and archaeologists.
However, during the reconstruction of the Bakong Temple, the stone used to put the pieces back together was not sandstone, but regular brick. This has somewhat made today’s Bakong a mere shadow of the temple that was once considered the holiest place in the Angkor Empire.
Many of the intricate carving work that is seen in other prominent Angkor temples are missing here; a cost that the temple has had to pay for restoration’s sake. However, one of the temple’s most famous remaining carving fragments happens to be asuras (demons) in battle, no doubt a scene from Hindu mythology.
Reconstruction Has Also Brought Back Some of Its Former GloryWhile reconstruction could not bring back the temple back from ruin completely, it did manage to showcase some of the temple’s architectural highlights. The elephant and lion statues that feature on the temple’s pyramid rank high among those highlights.
The statues can be found on the three lower levels of the five-level temple pyramid while the elephant statues guard the corners of the levels, the lion statues guard all the stairways.
How to reach the Bakong Temple?Bakong is approximately 15 km (9 mi) away from Siem Reap. You can reach Bakong Temple by heading out from Siem Reap on the National Highway 6 that leads towards Phnom Penh.
Taxi/ Rented Car: From Siem Reap downtown or international airport, hire a taxi or a registered car to reach the Bakong Temple. It will cost $10 per seat and $15 if you hire an 8 to 12-seater minivan. It takes around 20-30 minutes to reach the temple.
Tuk-Tuk: Smaller groups can also hire a Tuk-Tuk taxi from Siem Reap downtown, which takes approximately 27 minutes to reach. A Tuk-Tuk from Siem Reap to the Bakong Temple will cost around $8-$10. If you hire for the entire day (8 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.), it will cost $15 per seat.
Moto: Motorcycle-driven carriage is another popular option to travel between Siem Reap and the temple. It will cost $8-$10 from 8 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. Total time taken to travel is 30 minutes.
Bicycle on Rent: You can also hire an electric bicycle for $2-$4 per day. The backstreets south out of Siem Reap and towards the Tonle Sap is a preferred route for bicycling.
Entry Fees$37 (£28) for a 1-day ticket;
$62 (£48) for a 3-day ticket;
$72 (£55) for a 7-day ticket.
Additionally, US$2.00 will be charged extra on every ticket, which will be donated to the Kantha Bopha Foundation – a Swiss-operated children’s hospital that provides free medical treatment.
*Note: The Bakong Temple is included in your Angkor Pass. The rates above are applicable for Your Angkor Pass, which includes all Angkor Wat temples.
Read More: What to See inside Angkor Wat?
The temple is open on Monday-Sunday, from 5.00 a.m. – 6.00 p.m.
Ticket Details:• All tickets will have a photo identification and the pass is non-transferable
• There is only one Pass for Angkor Archeological Park and is applicable for all the temples under it
• The tickets will be checked at every temple
• Children under 12 years of age do not require a pass, but have to present their passport as an age proof
If you are visiting Cambodia any time soon, definitely keep Bakong on your list of places to visit in the country.