Cambodia and Laos, Angkor and Luang Prabang - Part 3
The Bayon is so wonderful that the time just flashed by and it was with some surprise that our guide told us to finish up taking photos as it was time to move on to the next temple. Amazingly we had spent almost two hours wandering over and around the Bayon, exquisite! Next and last stop for the day, Ta Prohm temple.
Ta Prohm is the modern day name, it was originally called Rajavihara. It is a Buddhist temple, was also built by King Jayavarman VII, in the Bayon style, towards the end of the 12th century and is dedicated to his mother. It is one of the most popular temples in the whole Angkor complex but not for any historic or architectural reasons but rather because of the amazing sight of tropical trees literally growing out of and around the stones of the temple as nature battles to retake the site. In this climate, basically hot and sticky, the vegetation grows very quickly and many of the temples have been overgrown and even destroyed to some extent by the incursion of tree and plant life. In the case of Ta Prohm the sights are quite unique and so the overgrowth has been allowed to stay by the archaeologists, except for a path through the ruins, for its effect and photographic value and the tourists come in hoards. It was also used as location for Tomb Raider. They have even laid down special platforms in certain locations where the best photos can be taken as can be seen here. In my guide book it says that 50 years ago a visitor wrote ‘The strange, haunted charm of the place entwines itself about you as you go, as inescapably as the roots have wound themselves about the walls and towers’, an apt summing up and I would say that in reality nothing much has changed.
Indeed there is something so special about this place that it makes you want to linger and drink in the atmosphere. Ghosts of the past seem to hover in the air saying ‘You should have been here during its prime, such a beautiful place and now look at it, so overgrown’. Visitors are pushing and shoving to get the best angle for the photo shoot and the Koreans are here en masse. We slowly wend our way through the temple, through the overgrown galleries and past the library, where the Buddhist scripts used to be stored. It is a big temple and housed many people, we know this because there is a Sanskrit inscription that tells us, amongst other things, that it housed 79,365 people, including 18 great priests, 2,740 officials, 2,202 assistants and 615 dancers......so no unemployment problem here! It also owned 3,140 villages, so all in all it was evidently a pretty important place.
We exit on the opposite side of the temple to where we entered and our driver is there waiting for us. The first day is over and they drive us back to Kazna, reminding us that tomorrow it will be an 8.30 a.m. start and that we will begin at the Elephant Terrace. We nonchalantly say ‘That’s fine’, forgetting that today is my son’s birthday and we had decided that we would have a night on the town to celebrate..................read on!!