We spent one of our mornings in Siem Reap exploring the ruins of Ta Prohm Temple. It was possibly one of the most amazing sites I've ever seen. Our car dropped us off at the crumbling stone gateway, beyond which was a long gravel pathway through the forest.
As you can see, at this early hour, we basically had the place to ourselves.
At the end of the path stood the ruins of the temple. There is reconstruction work going on and much has been done already, but the wonderful thing about this site is that you get a sense of how all of the ruins in the area must have looked before they were reconstructed. The jungle grows around and through the stones, and in some places it would be impossible to remove the trees from the structure itself. It's astonishing to think how long this structure has remained here like this, while the earth slowly swallows it up again.
The construction of the temple began in the 6th century AD and is was enlarged and added onto for the next thousand years, at one point hosting a population of 12,500 people. It was abandoned in the 17th century after the fall of the Khmer Empire (x).
This temple was one of the filming locations for Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, and when you walk around in these ruins, you definitely feel like you're in a movie.
I'm trying to find the words to describe just how magical this place felt for me, and I find I'm at a loss. The idea that you're standing on stones that people quarried and moved and carved and set in place a thousand years ago is fairly mindblowing.
These trees growing up through the ruins are massive.
Here you can get a sense of the grandeur of the temple back in the time it was occupied. It must have been a truly stunning sight.
As with most of the temples in the area, Ta Prohm was originally built as a Hindu temple and now serves as a Buddhist temple.
Carter seemed to enjoy exploring the ruins, though, as with many of the things we've seen this year, he doesn't really grasp the significance of a place like this. I can only hope that he'll remember it.
I love this picture of Carter. I think that you can see the scale of the place in this shot, and you can try to superimpose on it the image of all the human beings who lived and worked here in centuries long past. People were happy here, sad here, and lived and loved and worshiped and died here, and now here we are, standing in this ancient place. It makes me wonder what we will leave behind for people to see in another thousand years. Will it be so grand and built so well?
The intricate stone carvings are just amazing.
After a while, Carter was done looking at ruins and wanted to dig in the dirt.
Even though it isn't as big as Angkor Wat, the scale of Ta Prohm is still impressive.
But of course, things can only be impressive for so long for a five-year-old.
When I went over to see what Carter was doing in the dirt, this is what I found! He's been into the movie Wall-E lately.
This gives you a sense of how massive those trees are.
We returned to Angkor Thom, since we hadn't been able to see all of it in a single morning. We started at the south gate, also known as Dead's Gate. It was featured in Tomb Raider as well.
There is a path that you can follow all the way into the main part of the city, but it's overgrown and we weren't dressed for hiking in the jungle.
Our car took us back around to the main entrance, and we explored the other side of the city, where there are twelve tall towers.
There were many other ruins in the area, most not suitable for climbing on. Most of the tourists were on the other side and we had this piece of the forest all to ourselves.
This is such an stunning place, and one I definitely want to return to some day. There were other temples we didn't see, ones that are further away and perhaps even more evocative of the passage of time. I've never seen anything quite like this in my life - and to be honest, that's saying a lot. For me, the ruins around Siem Reap are some of the most stunning monuments to human ingenuity on the planet. The closest rival is Machu Picchu, I think.
I've been to amusement parks that tried to replicate this sort of thing, to give people an "Indiana Jones" type of experience, but this? This was the real thing. This was amazing. I can't wait to come back.
Next up: Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam.