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Temple Watch: A giant 3-D puzzle

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The 11th century Baphoun temple, south of the Terrace of the Elephants, was one of the most spectacular of all the Angkor temples in its heyday. The three-tiered pyramid had a huge reclining Buddha on its western side and a meditating Buddha at its summit.

Attempts were made to restore this temple in 1918, but a series of disastrous collapses and dismantlement up to the early 1940s left the temple in a state of total ruin with only the western side intact.  In 1960, a major restoration project commenced and much of the stonework needed to be dismantled, which took many years.  

In 1970, the war forced the postponement of the work, and it wasn't until 1995 that work re-commenced. But there was a major problem: there were 300,000 dismantled stone blocks and the plans for outing it all together again were lost during the war.  The vast 3D puzzle is still being pieced together today.

The Baphoun restoration is being carried out by the l'Ecole Française d'Extrême-Orient and the French government.  The public can now access the causeway and first level, where there are interesting displays on the restoration. 

The site of the 70-metre-long reclining Buddha is slowly being pieced together and can be seen to the west.

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