Cambodian Temples & the Kids at Ta Prohm

One of the many faces of Bayon.

Thick, tangled, dense, green, snake and monkey filled vegetation abounds with each turn. With another turn is a clearing linked by paths or dirts roads to another clearing containing chunks of coal and slate covered rocks with carved pictures and cutouts and images left behind by brown skinned black haired inhabitants over hundreds of years starting over 1000 years ago. Recent surveys reveal that more remains are yet to be uncovered of what may be the largest empire on earth at the time of its peak in the 1100’s.

Shortly after sunrise you will find a mystical mist in the air before the blazing orb’s heat rays burns off the dew. You look around still amazed by ancient Cambodian.  It is still here. It’s right in front of you on the ground of the Cambodian temples and in the bloodlines of the proud and open, generous Cambodians. Their smiles inviting you to learn of their violent history full of bloodshed, war, and genocide (The Khmer Rouge), all while trying to get you to loosen your wallet to by a souvenir or hire a tout. Ahhh, life in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

From my last post about the Angkor area,(here), you’ll see that a hill (Phnom Bakheng) was ingratiating itself into my memory banks, forever to have a moment. But my trusty young moto-guide then whisked me off to the area of Angkor Thom, the last capital of the Khmer Empire, to the ruins of the Bayon temple. But first a quick stop for blessing at the Wat Si Ar Metrey, (Wat=Temple) not quite a ramshackle place of worship, in comparison to many more ornate ones you will find in the region, but a basic sala (open air pavilion) with the familiar triangular covered roof, just slightly worse for wear.

Wat (temple) Si Ar Metrey
Wat Si Ar Metrery.

Nevertheless the 15 foot Buddha on the 6 foot platform will offer you the chance for meditation along with the local Angkor workers and those who make life on the grounds of the park.

The Bayon is a Khmer temple built in the late 1100’s to early 1200’s. It seems to be but a cluster of towered stoned but upon closer inspection there are a myriad of serene faces carved into the stones as well as bas reliefs showing historical and mythical scenes. There is always a local willing to make a few dollars explaining it all to you!

Angkor Thom North gate faces.
Angkor Thom North gate faces.
The ruins of the Bayon
The ruins of the Bayon
One of the many faces of Bayon.
One of the many faces of Bayon.
A young entrepreneur, Cambodia.
A young entrepreneur.

These budding business people come in all ages and varying degrees of information. Even if you have done prior research, sometimes having someone to whisk you around for a few to several bucks is helpful!

The Main Temple

There will be a large crowd heading toward the hill (Phnom Bakheng) to see the sunset over the main Angkor Wat towers. As the crowd goes one way, going another makes for a little easier time wandering around the main grounds.

The main building itself is in the classic Khmer style made mostly of sandstone with three lotus shaped towers that have come to almost represent Cambodia itself. The temple stands on a terrace raised slightly above the rest of the complex’s level, and is decorated extensively with devatas and bas-reliefs that would take extensive studying to interpret what seems like a million images all over the walls of the inner and outer courtyard of the complex.

There is a moat that surrounds the squared grounds that has kept the jungle encroachment back over the years.

The main temple of Angkor Wat.
The inner courtyards of Angkor Wat.
The inner courtyards of Angkor Wat.
The crowd getting smaller for sunset, at Angkor Wat Cambodia.
The thinning crowd.
A great place to bask in 1000 year old seat.
A great place to bask in 1000 year old seat.

Going through the temple and the grounds after 3-4 in the afternoon will see it thin out from the throngs of fanny packed tour bus minions. Security guards here and there as well as people who look “official” are always about as there are those involved in conservation, in particular the the Japanese Government Team for Safeguarding Angkor (JSA) as well as teams from France and Germany most notably.

A Siem Reap monkey!
A monkey seeming to pose.

The Ruins of Ta Phrom

The temple Ta Prohm was built as a Buddhist Monastery in the late 1100’s. It’s about a kilometer east of the Bayan, in an area that is more densely twisted with lush, dark greenery, with ruins being reclaimed by the jungle that borders the bricks and stones. Of course men have fought back nature in the interest of tourism but many of the twisted snake-like roots that have permeated the openings of the mortar have been allowed to stay, creating a picturesque merging of god and man.

Tree roots at Ta Prohm, Cambodia.
The snaking tree roots at Ta Prohm.
Ta Phrohm temple , Siem Reap , Cambodia.
Ta Prohm.

Ta Prohm ruins, siem Reap, Cambodia.

The Ta Prohm Kids

It was an overcast grey and white sky kind of afternoon at the Ta Prohm Ruins. A little bit of spray mixed with the already wet and moist humidity of the northern Cambodian day. Cotton T shirts are not advised for the cool country visitor! The sprinkle actually made for better views as the dust covered leaves and stones took on a nicer hue when wet. There were less than ten wanderers on the grounds and a few kids who were scooping up plastic water bottles, I assume for turning in the plastic for some of the various projects around the area to clean up the drinking bottle pollution.

They were small and gentle children who wondered smiled and stared and went about their business. But then the heavy rain started batterring the site, and with my camera I was looking for a spot to escape quickly. “Mister, Mister. Over here!” I heard from a precocious little lass. She was leading me to a dry spot that would keep me dry as the rain seemed to bounce off ledges and turn corners and drip through cracks. Safe and dry I was surrounded by the little lady, about 7-8, an older girl of about 9 and a little boy trying to grip bottles as if they were his life. Maybe he was 6.

He stayed quiet whilst the girls quizzed me with the usual. “Where you come from”, What your name” questions that one gets when it is obvious they aren’t a local. They were adorable. They laughed at me as I looked for snakes. Snakes come out of their holes in floods and it was flooding. And there are a lot of snakes in Cambodia. “You scared snake?” Yes kid. I am. Unless I see him first and have a reliable weapon. Their broken English actually impresses me because many of these children can converse in 2-3 languages due to tourism. It doesn’t have to be grammar perfect, but when they do have money for it, these kids do well. They are quite bright.

I gave the little man some change to add to his plastic booty. He was happy to find so many bottles.

Cambodian Kid Ta Prohm, Siem Reap, Cambodia.
My little saviour.
Cambodian girl Ta Prohm temple, cambodia.
The older sister.
Cambodian Boy Ta Prohm Temple, Siem Reap,Cambodia.
The little business man.

Eventually the rain slowed and my moto driver was waiting to whisk me to wherever was next in my quest to see stuff. And see things we did. And eat and talk as much as we could.

But those are for another time to tell tales!

Thanks for stopping by.

Siem Reap, Cambodia, is easily accessible from all the other major Asian cities like Bangkok, Hong Kong, Singapore and more! See the flight box on this page and plan a trip somewhere for your next adventure!

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8 Comments

  1. Wow! What an adventure. You describe everything so well, it really makes me picture it as though I was there. It looks like such an untapped time capsule unchanged. A lot of your pictures look straight out of an Indiana Jones movie!

    1. HAHA! Thanks man! Do you remember the original Tomb Raider? It was filmed in this area!! Check it out! Angelina Jolie ended up adopting a Cambodian kid remember? I plan to make it back one day! Thanks for the comment!

  2. I really enjoyed reading your post! I visited the Cambodian Temples a couple of years ago and found them absolutely magical! It’s incredible to think how old they are – and so intricately designed, even all those thousands of years ago. I was amazed how different every temple felt as well.

    My favourite was Beng Melea – we got a real sense of magic whilst exploring inside that temple – as if spirits were watching over us.

    1. That is awesome! It is great to meet folks who get the wonder of this place! I can’t wait to one day go back with better cameras and a better sense of myself and the world and re-live the magic of Siem Reap! Thanks for the comment!

  3. Really cool stuff! It’s amazing how these structures have stood the test of time for so long and to see plants of trees kind of overgrow them. Keep it up!

    1. I hope you do get to go! Make sure you time it so you get the best weather or the smallest crowds. Even in the early parts of the rainy season there are long spells of good weather though a little humid. Don’t wait too much longer! Just start planning. Thanks for stopping by!

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