Saturday, January 26, 2013

Temples of Angkor, Part I: Ta Prohm

I don't even know how to begin talking about Angkor. It's the reason most people come to Cambodia, or at least, people don't generally visit Cambodia without visiting the temples. They are famous for so many reasons. They are architecturally, historically, and culturally significant, and just plain, mind-blowingly awesome. It's one of those bucket list things; something of near mythical status, like the Pyramids or the Coliseum that you just have to see with your own eyes.

There are over a thousand different temples spread out over hundreds of kilometres, but three main ones: Ta Prohm, Angkor Thom (specifically the Bayon), and Angkor Wat. It is possible to see the "big three" in one day, but we're stretching them out over three days to take our time, and this is turning out to be a good decision, because the stifling heat and oppressive crowds make it difficult to take in very much in a day!

We began our first day with Ta Prohm. It's a relatively small complex compared to Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom, but still more massive than I even imagined! And so incredibly crowded. I have to say my excitement dwindled with the busloads of tourists shuffling along roped pathways and posing on platforms, and also the extensive scaffolding supporting many of the structures, but we did end up finding a few quiet spots to sit and appreciate this amazing place. And really, it would be impossible to take the magic away. Ta Prohm is, hands down, the most amazing place I've ever seen. Massive, reptilian tree roots from enormous strangler figs and flanged buttress roots of towering silk wood trees have grown up and over and through the ruins, in an incredibly beautiful and intricate entanglement. Just awesome, in every sense of the word. Even without the roots, the ruins are beautiful. Intricate and surprisingly intact carvings of figures, plants, and animals (even a stegosaurus!?) cover pillars, walls, and tumbled piles of sandstone blocks.

After Ta Prohm we took in a few smaller temples (see map): Prasat Suor Prat, Chau Say Tevoda, Thommanon, and Ta Keo, where my dad mastered his fear of heights and climbed the narrow and dizzyingly steep steps to the very top; and we also stopped to admire the amazing Victory Gate which marks the eastern entrance to Angkor Thom and features the calm, beatific, buddha-like faces of those at the Bayon temple (which we would see the following day).

I had been getting "lazy" in the photo taking department, but then I got my new DSLR, and then Ta Prohm happened, and that combination led to... umm... 628 photos... (In my defense, I was testing out some new settings!). Anyway, here are just a few. But if you want to see two hundred more, check this out!

The crowds vying for their picture in front of the Tomb Raider tree. Big thanks to Angelina for that one.

The millisecond-long, people-free view of the "Tomb Raider tree"...

Adorable monkey being even more adorable.

Offering at the top of Prasat Suor Prat temple

Faces on the Victory Gate to Angkor Thom

Chau Say Tevoda

Chau Say Tevoda

Thommanon temple

Late afternoon sun filtering through Thommanon

O.M.G. I just figured out I can shoot in black and white... awwwwwesome!

Windows of spindles at Ta Keo

Lotta steep steps to get up to the top

Going up is easy...

Heights, shmeights!

Cicadas. Look like the ones at home, but waaaaay more annoying. High pitched scream, sounds like a fire alarm.

School in Siem Reap. The kids are learning the lyrics to Wonderwall by Oasis. Quality English grammar, that!


  1. Wow. just wow. love the shot of the three door frames.
    So are you just able to walk and climb anywhere you want? Or are there barriers?

  2. There are some boardwalk areas to guide traffic and some areas roped off as "posing platforms" in front of the more "famous" trees, but otherwise it's surprisingly open.