Ta Prohm, Cambodia – The Tomb Raider Temple

Ta Prohm, Cambodia – The Tomb Raider Temple

“Indiana, we are simply passing through history. This… this is history.” Raiders of the Lost Ark

I know – wrong movie but it was such a good quote for this. Yes, Ta Prohm is the temple where Angelina Jolie played Lara Croft in Tomb Raider. Disturbingly many more Americans probably know where Angelina Jolie is right now and do not know where Cambodia is. Some may know the Tomb Raider temple is in Cambodia. (The Tomb Raider tree)

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Ta Promh has been left the way it was originally found.

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The jungle had completely engulfed the entire complex when it was discovered in the last century.

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It was amazing to see how the massive trees have grown around and atop the structures, their roots seemingly strangling and holding up the temple’s towers and other buildings.

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At Ta Prohm you can start to appreciate what the first explorers saw when they re-discovered these temples.

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It is easy to relive the emotions of the French naturalist Henri Mouhot when he came across it hidden in the jungle in 1860.

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Ta Prohm was dedicated to the family of Jayavarman VII as shown by the inscriptions on the stele ( stone monument) The inscription lists many of Jayavarman’s ancestors, as well as giving details of the construction. Perhaps most compelling though is the information the stele gives about the people whose lives revolved around this site. Nearly 80,000 people were involved in serving the temple, coming from over 3,000 surrounding villages. The stele also mentions that there were 102 functioning hospitals in the Kingdom. Numbers like this give a fantastic insight into the sheer scale of the Khmer empire at that time.

The structure measures 145 by 125 meters and has a maze of courtyards and galleries, many impassable because of the dense overgrowth of creepers and roots.

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I had to put this photo in of a Cambodian butterfly at Ta Prohm Temple. Thanks for taking this Kim. I needed to use at least one of your “National Geographic photos”. Most of the photos atTa Prohm were taken by Wong Kimsian.

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The “jungle temple” is best visited early in the morning when everybody else is at Angkor Wat to get your best photographs of the ongoing battle between nature and architecture.

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Fly Safe,

JAZ

Bayon, Angor Thom, Cambodia

Bayon, Angor Thom, Cambodia

“Bayon can be said to be the most imaginative and singular in the world, because more unearthly in its conception, a temple from a city in some distant planet…imbued with the same elusive beauty that often lives between the lines of a great poem.”  Bruno Dagens

Bayon and Angkor Wat evoke similar aesthetic responses yet are different in purpose, design, architecture and decoration. Bayon was built in late 12th century to early 13th century, by  King Jayavarman VII. The dense jungle surrounding the temple camouflaged its place in relation to other structures at Angkor so it was not known for some time that the Bayon stands in the exact centre of the city of Angkor Thom.

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To get to the temple you cross a bridge lined with amazing statues.

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You continue on to my favorite place – the terrace of the elephants.

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On approaching from a distance, it resembles a rather formless initially disappointing jumble of stone.

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Inside you discover a maze of galleries, towers and passageways on three different levels.

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The structure is rich in decoration, detailing scenes from battles, religious rituals, and everyday life.

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The most famous thing about the Bayon Temple are the over 200 faces carved into the stone temple towers – some indistinct and crumbling and others perfectly preserved.

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It is generally accepted that four faces on the towers are images of the bodhisattva (fully enlightened beings) who delays entry into Nirvana to aid the spiritual development of others.

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The characteristics of the faces – a broad forehead, downcast eyes, wild nostrils, thick lips that curl upwards slightly at the ends-combine to reflect the famous ‘Smile of Angkor’.

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The feeling at Bayon Temple for me was very different from Angor Wat. It is smaller, greyer and in the jungle.

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There are slabs of stone and crumbling ruins all around.

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You can see how they brought the stone from quarries thirty miles away and lifted it up.

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My guide in Cambodia was Mr. Wong Kimsien. Kim was very knowledgeable and fun.  He had a good sense of humor and was able to go with the flow  and switched gears whenever necessary. He also took most of these photos and the ones at Ta Prohm as well.  He is a very good photographer.  Thank you Kim for being such a good tour guide and all your kindness.

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Bayon is less crowded than Angor Wat so you can even find a quiet space for a blessing  under the sightless gaze of the ever-present faces.

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Fly safe,

JAZ