Do you know where you can find the world's largest puzzle? To find the answer, please continue to read this article. This ancient Cambodian 'puzzle' three tier temple situated at northwestern Cambodia was reopened to public recently with a grand opening, after a decades long renovation project and described as the world's largest puzzle.
No wonder that the restoration of the 11th-century Baphuon monument was celebrated with a high profile ceremony attended by Cambodia King Norodom Sihamoni and French Prime Minister Francois Fillon. This opening ceremony is a memorable one and being one of the country's largest after Angkor Wat.
Both countries' leaders have words of praise for this restoration work at the inauguration event on July 3 in the northwestern tourist hub of Siem Reap, which drew thousands of Cambodians waving French, Cambodian and Europen Union flags as a mark of well co-operation from these parties that produce this exceptional creation as Fillion put it. These efforts have been well appreciated by the Cambodians exactly conveyed by the King Sihamoni as "profound gratitude to France" for completing the 10 million euros French-funded undertaking.
Fillion said French archaeologists would then turn their attention to the 2.7 million euro restoration of the western Mebon temple in Angkor Park and the rests are history. This Angkor region was the seat of the medieval Khmer empire, which will be its shadow behind this majestic temple.
By now, you may wonder as to why is it being described as the world's largest puzzle, to be more precise as the world's biggest three-dimensional puzzle. This is because the above finished project took the restorers half a century of painstaking efforts to piece the crumbling tower's 300,000 sandstone blocks back together.
Its restoration can be tracked back to 1960s when a French-led team of archaeologists dismantled the pyramidal building because it was falling apart, largely due to its heavy, sand-filled core that was putting pressure on the thin walls. The workers numbered some 300,000 of the sandstone blocks and laid them out in the surrounding jungle.
It had gone through some odds before it can stand up proudly revealing itself in full glory as you see now. The initial effort to rebuild the pyramidal structure was interrupted by the civil war that took place in 1970. It was reported that the records to reassemble Baphuon, including the numbering system, were then destroyed by the hardline communist Khmer Rouge which took power in 1975.
Fortunately that this ruling party had a short life span of 20 years and the area was again safe to begin with the work. Since then it is known as the world's biggest three-dimensional puzzle - was restarted under the leadership of architect Pascal Royere from the Ecole francaise d'Extreme-Orient (EFEO).
The team carefully measured and weighed each block and then relied on archive photos stored in Paris, drawings and the recollections of Cambodian workers to figure out where each part fits.
Royere revealed in his recent interview that his team was facing a three-dimensional puzzle, a 300,000-piece puzzle to which they had lost the picture. And that was the main difficulty of this project. Fortunately that there is no mortar that fills the cracks which mean that each stone has its own place. You will not find two blocks that have the same dimensions.
Finishing the "unique" undertaking was "a collective satisfaction because it was a complicated project," he said.
Built around 1060 by King Udayadityavarman II in honour of the Hindu god Shiva, Baphuon was the country's largest religious building at the time, 35 metres high (114 feet) and measuring 130 by 104 metres (426 x 340 feet).
In the 16th century, a 70-metre long reclining Buddha statue was built into a wall on the second level using stones from the top of the temple.
These two phases of construction, hundreds of years apart, further complicated the restoration, said Royere, and working during the rainy season proved another major challenge.
But those struggles are behind him now and as the Frenchman watched camera-toting tourists amble along the long elevated walkway that leads to the temple, he said he was confident the site would become a top attraction.
Located at the heart of the Angkor Park, it "certainly promises to be a great success," he said.
As such, it makes it a place worth to visit. A memorial of the journey on how it overcomes its odds to gain its former glory - a very good lesson to learn from. This is another good reminder and provides courage to those who are facing adversities in life.
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