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Some people have called the Angor Wat temple complex one of the seven wonders of the world. In my opinion, I would agree. I have not seen anything like it during my travels around the world. It is singularly unique. This post on Phnom Bakheng and Ta Prohm illustrates what I am talking about, especially true regarding my visit to Ta Prohm.

 

Jungle area that has seen some garden maintenance. Ha.

Jungle area that has seen some garden maintenance. Ha.

Constructed more than two centuries before Angkor Wat, Phnom Bakheng was in its day the principal temple of the Angkor region, historians believe. It was the architectural centerpiece of a new capital, Yasodharapura, that Yasovarman built when he moved the court from the capital Hariharalaya in the Roluos area located to the southeast.

 

Raised walkway to bakheng temple.

Raised walkway to Phnom Bakheng temple.

Phnom Bakheng is a symbolic representation of Mount Meru, home of the Hindu gods, a status emphasized by the temple’s location atop a steep hill. The temple faces east, measures 76 meters square at its base and is built in a pyramid form of six tiers. At the top level, five sandstone sanctuaries, in various states of repair, stand in “aquincunx” pattern—one in the center and one at each corner of the level’s square. Originally, 108 small towers were arrayed around the temple at ground level and on various parts of its tiers; most of them have collapsed.

Phnom Bakheng.

Phnom Bakheng.

Following Angor’s rediscovery by the outside world in the mid-19th century, decades passed before archeologists grasped Phnom Bakheng’s historical significance. For many years, scholars’ consensus view was that the Bayon, the temple located at the center of Angor Thom city, was the edifice to which the Sdok Kak Thom inscription referred. Later work identified the Bayon as a Buddhist site, built almost three centuries later than originally thought, in the late 12th century, and Phnom Bakheng as King Yasovarman’s state temple. 

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If you have seen the movie, Tomb Raider, then you know the trees growing out of the ruins are perhaps the most distinctive feature of Ta Prohm, and “have prompted more writers to descriptive excess than any other feature of Angkor.” Personally, this temple leaves me speechless. In short, I have never seen anything like it in all my travels. Similar to the uniqueness of the Bayon temple, which has the mysterious massive stone faces, Ta Prohm’s trees which seem to be swallowing the temple whole are something you have to see in person. Photographs really don’t do the site justice. Personally, I wish I had gone at another time when there weren’t so many tourists around. The other temple sites are so large (acreage) compared to this small site. Consequently, many, many more tourists will be found here. Ideally, I should have started here at sunrise and worked backwards to the main Angor Wat temple site. Oh well . . .

The monsoon rain was beginning to ebb at Ta Prohm.

The monsoon rain was beginning to ebb at Ta Prohm.

Per Wikipedia, two species predominate, but sources disagree on their identification: the larger is either the silk cotton tree or thitpok and the smaller is either the strangler fig or Gold Apple. Angkor scholar Maurice Glaize observed, “On every side, in fantastic over-scale, the trunks of the silk-cotton trees soar skywards under a shadowy green canopy, their long spreading skirts trailing the ground and their endless roots coiling more like reptiles than plants.” When I was there, an unbelievably large monsoon came crashing down on us (tourists) and everyone either opened their umbrellas or found shelter inside the temple.

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Entrance to Ta Prohm.

The temple itself is very eerie and the massive storm accentuated this feeling or thought I had of “what the hell would I do if I was lost in the jungle and came upon this abandoned mysterious temple (especially at dusk)?” No idea, but I sure was glad that wasn’t my situation and I had a tuk tuk back to my hotel/civilization.  Below are some of the photos I took of these two sites . . . 

Children swimming at pool which is adjacent to the Phonom Kahseng temple.

Children swimming at pool which is adjacent to the Phnom Bakheng temple.

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It was almost mid day, sans cloud cover. Consequently, it was a bit difficult climbing to the top.

It was almost mid day, sans cloud cover. Consequently, it was a bit difficult climbing to the top.

. . . Eventually, I did make it. Ha.

. . . Eventually, I did make it. Ha.

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View from top of Phnom Bakheng, looking down on other parts of temple.

View from top of Phnom Bakheng, looking down on other parts of temple. The rickety wooden stairs were scary.

View of entrance (raised walkway) to Phnom Bakheng.

View of entrance (raised walkway) to Phnom Bakheng. Pool is off to the right.

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Gully washer. LOL.

Gully washer. LOL.

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Simply astounding!

Simply astounding!

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Ed

As I was exiting Ta Prohm, these musicians were playing music and selling CDs. Instruments they were using I have never seen before - I believe they are unique to Cambodia.

As I was exiting Ta Prohm, these musicians were playing music and selling CDs. Instruments they were using I have never seen before – I believe they are unique to Cambodia.

 

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