Ok, back to our Cambodia trip after that little detour into the world of strangely flavored potato chips.
Angkor Archaeological Park: the largest and probably most well known of all of Southeast Asia's ancient temples complexes. Angkor was built around the same time as other temples we've visited in the past few years, including Borobudur (blogged here and here) and Prambanan (blogged here and here) on Java as well as the Champa temples at My Son in Vietnam (blogged here). I didn't realize before going, but Angkor is not just one temple, but hundreds of 400 square kilometers of temples, ancient cities, carvings, statues, moats, etc. Impressive, to say the least.
Our first stop within the archaeological park was Ta Prohm, a temple built in the 12th-13th centuries by King Jayavarman VII for his mother, as our guide explained. It was a Buddhist monastery and university that housed thousands of people in its prime, but was abandoned in the 17th century at the end of the Khmer empire, at which point the jungle overtook it.
You might recognize some images of the temple from the movie Tomb Raider (hopefully that's all you remember, because it was pretty bad)... lots of folks in Siem Reap refer to Ta Prohm as "the Tomb Raider Temple" as I'm sure having Angelina Jolie come to your country, film a movie, and adopt a baby is pretty memorable.
As you can see, Ta Prohm is basically being eaten by the crazy roots of these trees. Unlike the other parts of Angkor, Ta Prohm was left essentially as is after it was rediscovered. In some cases the roots are propped up to prevent further damage, but somewhere along the way, the decision was made to maintain the temple in a state of "apparent neglect" for aesthetic reasons.
The trees and roots with bas-relief carvings peeking out do provide a pretty picturesque setting, that's for sure!
This root is so big it needed supports:
The moss covered walls are pretty cool, too.
Some lovely carvings, too, although not quite the massive narrative carvings of the other temples within Angkor: