It was easy to see why Ta Prohm was picked as a shooting location for the “Tomb Raider” movie.
Yes, that’s a Stegosaurus carved into a wall at Ta Prohm. Well, maybe. Creationists believe the carving is evidence that humans and dinosaurs once co-existed (which would lend some authority to their weird timeline of the universe), but experts are still unsure of the hows and whys of the carving’s origin — or whether it’s even a dinosaur. Here’s from an article on Smithsonianmag.com: “If you look at the carving quickly and at an angle, yes, it does superficially look like a Stegosaurus that a kindergartener made out of play-doh. As anyone who has spent time watching the clouds go by knows, though, an active imagination can turn something plain into something fantastic. If viewed directly, the carving hardly looks Stegosaurus-like at all. The head is large and appears to have large ears and a horn. The ‘plates’ along the back more closely resemble leaves, and the sculpture is a better match for a boar or rhinoceros against a leafy background.”
A woman offers blessings and luck bracelets (and accepts donations), in an alcove amid the ruins of Ta Prohm. Burning joss sticks, her shaved head, and the various offerings that surrounded her made me think she probably wasn’t a Mormon.
Though there were quite a few people wandering Ta Prohm, it was the least crowded of the complexes we visited, and it was easy enough to find some people-free vantage points. I lucked out and suddenly found myself being shown great photo spots by a helpful local — that is until I realized he was expecting a tip at the end of whatever path he was leading me on. He might also have been after my camera: at one point he encouraged me to climb a ways up the trunk of a large tree growing out of the stone and said he would take a picture of me from below. Unfortunately for him, I’d woken up pretty early that morning: I wasn’t going to play the idiot tourist for him. A few minutes and a couple of turns later I gave him $5 and we parted ways, much to his dismay. When I ran into Shay a couple of minutes later, she reported a similar experience. It was a minor thrill to know that we’d both successfully encountered and escaped from what is no doubt a classic Angkorian tourist scam.
When exploring millennia-old ruins, sometimes it’s best to just have a seat and take it all in.
Good luck getting a decent shot without at least a couple of people creeping into the frame.
Many stone figures and faces had a certain stoicism that seemed undiminished by time, as if the artist knew his work would be met by the faces of a future age.
Battle scenes — spear-and-bow-wielding warriors, elephant riders, chariots — were a popular motif.
More weathered and worn than Angkor Wat, Bayon was less impressive in its scale and grandeur but no less awe-inspiring.
At Bayon, just a short tuk-tuk ride up the road from Angkor Wat, the crowds were smaller but the complex’s layout was more confined: it was a little challenging navigating the worn, stacked stone without unwittingly winding up in someone’s photograph. We lingered for a little while, admiring giant stone faces that were absent from Angkor Wat, then traveled on into the mid-day heat.
The Angkor Wat temple complex is vast, its scale from another era. Its stone is worn and stained, dulled by time, yet some of its carvings remain impressively intact — albeit due in part to ongoing restoration efforts. As the early morning haze lifted, we wandered the complex in a daze — antiquity has a way of not leaving much to say.
The moon was still well above the horizon when we arrived at Angkor Wat, the largest of the Khmer temple complexes.
Ancient script preserved in stone. Roughly translated: “Dinner is served in the mess hall promptly at 6 p.m. Stragglers will be tossed in the tiger pits.”
Revelers await the rising sun at Angkor Wat. Even though we arrived early, there were still hundreds of people already waiting to explore the massive ruins.
Siem Reap is home to the ruins of the seat of the Khmer empire, which once ruled much of Southeast Asia. Angkor Wat is the largest and most popular of the crumbling temple complexes, some of which have undergone intensive restoration. Other smaller complexes have been allowed to exist in their natural states: collapsed and covered in jungle growth.