1st.March, Angkor 2 – Ta Prohm, Banteay Kdei, Prasat Kravan, East Mebon und Pre Rup
This was the second day of visiting the huge temple city of Angkor which is really amazing, to use an over worked word. At Angkor it is more like viewing the pyramids or Carnac rather than Buddhist temples. They are of course just ruins but because of their massive sandstone construction they are still largely standing complete with much of their rooves and towers. I think the style of building in tiers of decreasing size and with towers which narrow but not to sharp points makes them very stable. The surrounding jungle has wrecked havoc in places but had been removed from the temples we saw on this day. Right next to the temples though many huge trees are still standing. The undergrowth has been cleared but one could say that it was the only primary forest which we had seen during the holiday. Quite remarkable considering the vast numbers of visitors. It is though well organised and one can live with it.
The main attraction of the day was Ta Prohm, the Tomb Raider temple. Had Ta Prohm been diligently maintained from its construction in 1186 to the present day, it would be just a footnote to the larger Angkor Wat temple. But while Ta Prohm lay forgotten and neglected by men, the Cambodian jungle wasted no time in devouring it. Silk-cotton and strangler fig trees took root in the loosened stones of the temple, which was built entirely without mortar. Their roots wound through the structure, creating an astonishing merger of nature and architecture. When Angkor was rediscovered in the early 20th century by French archaeologists, all of the temples had become overgrown – but none so spectacularly as Ta Prohm. Nevertheless, as they excavated and restored the other temples, the archaeologists had to make sure that the giant tree roots enveloping Ta Prohm would not further deteriorate the structure or make it dangerous to visit. Though Ta Prohm may look like nature unfettered, the appearance of neglect is in fact fastidiously maintained. Ta Prohm’s popularity has soared in recent years along with the rest of the Angkor complex, but especially because of its appearance in the movie Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. However it is no longer as it was when the film was made. Much restoration work is going on and some more of the big trees growing on the ruins have been removed, including the famous one of two fig trees growing on top of an arch adorned with carvings. This was removed in 2004 apparently but is still shown in the guide books. Apart from this the place is now invaded by seemingly hundreds of Chinese blocking the views.
East Mebon temple was built in the 10th Century during the reign of King Rajendravarman. It stands on what was once an artificial island at the center of the now dry East Baray reservoir. The East Mebon was dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva and honours the parents of the king.
We looked briefly at 3 more temples including East Mebon which I did not bother to climb and finished at lunchtime. We all decided not to visit a market in the afternoon and spent the time by the hotel pool. There were noisy Chinese also staying there but they were out most of the time.