Ta-Da. Here it is.
The temple I’ve been talking about, and hope haven’t made anti-climactic, because for me, it was definitely one of the most memorable.
First, I’ll start with a little unpopular culture, before steering you back into the shiny, Angelina Jolie, pop cultural spotlight.
So this temple, named Ta Prohm, was built by the second Khmer king, who was big on Buddha over Hinduism. As part of his reign, he embarked on a huge public works campaign to build temple sculptures and any other kind of building that could show how amazing he was.
Ta Prohm was built in this more Buddhist style, and the main image – a goddess of wisdom, was done in his mother’s likeness.
Upon first glance at the temple’s disrepair, you might think he didn’t like his Mum very much:
And it’s true – the place is falling apart. But way back in the 1200s, it was tikateeboo and right now, there are efforts being made to restore the place to what it once was. Have a look at this before and after:
I thought it was pretty impressive. However, after the Khmer empire fell in the 1400s, the temple was left to the jungle – which is why, on walking through it, trees have begun to form around it, sometimes looking like animals (an octopus):
Or, in this case a skeleton:
Interestingly, the overgrowth, disrepair and negligence was intentional. A team of French explorers “found” it again, in the late 1890s, and after hemming and hawing about it, decided that it would remain as it looks, with a tree in the living room, and the ceiling caving in, all for art’s sake, or to quote the French group: “as a concession to the general taste of the picturesque”.
While that sounds as lovely as a phyllo pastry tastes, I can’t help but think they had a look at what it would take to fix ($$$$) the temple and retrofitted the “elegantly wasted philosophy”, or en Francais to make it sound much better – l’elegance de l’atrophie.
Regardless of the reason, it stands as it stands, and was hands down my favourite temple visit so far. This, I think was partly that our Team Canada toured the grounds at the end of the day – when there were maybe four other people. We basically had the place to ourselves, and with the sun going down while looking up at the jungle crowding around it, with trees and loud bird calls, it had a very eerie and mystical feeling as we wandered through:
Now, it can’t be avoided. A lot of this has to do with you know who:
Angelina Jolie filmed Tomb Raider here, and also in other parts of Cambodia, including Bayon temple in Angkor Thom. And walking through the place, it’s hard to separate out the film where she finds a magical piece of some sort to save the world, all with a look of foreboding:
Our guide said that the film has quite a big impact on tours and that as a result, the temple is one of the most popular.
Truthfully, I don’t remember the film that well – except that it wasn’t that great. So, for the course of my tour through Ta Prohm, I went with my old standby for touring mysterious temples, who I think is well established by this point:
Whether Angelina or Indy, our Team Canada wandered through the crumbling place, imagining ourselves explorers, looking for some lost gem to save the world or to keep it out of the hands of the Nazis. Okay, maybe it was just me doing that, though with Rose’s shorts and trekking boots, she definitely looked the part:
After a last look at the place:
Reduced to two, Rose and I honestly didn’t know what to do with ourselves. After a solid, itemized itinerary for the past two weeks, we realized that we had to start making decisions again, and the holiday from a holiday was over.
I know. It’s a sad tale – I can feel your concern.
So, after a day of tossing ideas back and forth we decided to head South from Siem Reap to an island off the Cambodian Coast called Koh Rong. But first, we’d pass through Phnom Penh, and a trip to the dark side.