Angkor Wat. One of earth’s cultural treasures made even more famous by appearing in a movie – Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. The movie appeared in 2001 and was followed by another in 2003. I’ll admit I’ve never seen either movie except for bits and pieces, but when you see the shot at Ta Prohm, it seems impossible that it is a real place and not a movie set. Seeing the roots of giant trees grasping for a hold on the ancient stone temple while massive limbs reach hundreds of feet into the sky seems to defy the laws of physics. The roots, like the fingers of a cliff climber, curl around to lodge their bony flesh into every crack and crevice, securing a hold as the tree reaches for the sun.
On my first visit to Cambodia in 2004, the Cambodians were eager to talk about the movie and the movie stars. That visit was prior to the massive hordes of tourists that are now commonplace and I felt I could explore the several structures in some peace, lingering to take photos and inspect the handiwork from around 1113 AD. Siem Reap was a small and manageable city then; a few restaurants for tourists and some small hotels and guest houses. But I could already see the signs of progress as construction sites were rampant with signs announcing new hotels. When I returned in 2014, the area had changed. It had become a city full of tourists and high end hotels, bars, and restaurants promoting a “party” atmosphere along the once quieter streets.
On my first visit I shot this small “traffic jam” at the ancient temple. Look closely and you’ll see the elephant at the front of the line entering the gate. Thankfully, the elephant rides are ending. (The more I know about elephant training, the more I can’t stand the thought of these great creatures ferrying humans around.) I was happy to hire a tuk-tuk for the day (a motorcycle pulling a small cart with an awning for shade) and my driver was great.
Ten years later, Angkor Wat was just as amazing as before even if more crowded. I always have mixed feelings about the number of tourists. The more who see and appreciate historical sights, the easier it is to raise money to protect them. The flip side is that more needs to be done to protect them from the ravages of the hordes. Watch closely – some people insist on being disrespectful and even destructive (graffiti anyone?) but most truly revel in the sight of something so immense in its statement. I found myself taking photo after photo (no flash!) to capture the timeless art and the lovely detailed engravings telling the stories and fables of the past. See the serpent grasping a man in his jaws below? What could he have done to deserve that?
How have these structures survived the years? The temples and buildings of Angkor sit inside a dense jungle and efforts started almost one hundred years ago to clear the site and make it accessible once again.
If only we could know all of the buried secrets of the past. Lara – Is that you?
For more travel information, visit www.wanderlynn.com.
Copyright 2016 ©wanderlynntravel.wordpress.com; photos cannot be reproduced without permission. (Wikipedia used to confirm a few facts about Angkor Wat.)