In the dying light of day, Bayon’s brooding granite and laterite figures exude an air of loneliness. The roosting birds in the forest are eerily quiet. It is difficult to imagine Bayon, just half an hour by road from Siem Reap, as a place where people once gathered to celebrate the gods. They walked up gradient after gradient to reach the god-king at the top.
Today, at the first hint of dark, tourists retrace their tentative steps and coaches drive off without honking.
The temple architecture of Cambodia is grand, spatial and elevating. But Bayon is disconcertingly different. Its Gothic starkness, set against a dense forest, lends it a quality that could have inspired Bram Stoker to set a sequel to Dracula.