66. Temples of Angkor

The Temples of Angkor: Highlight, highlight, highlight. Like the Taj Mahal in India, there is no sight in Cambodia as iconic as the ancient Buddhist and Hindu temples of the Angkor civilization. Images of Angkor Wat, the most well known of all the temples, are printed everywhere – national flags, beer cans and cigarette packs, t-shirts, political signs, taxi dashboards. The temples attract hoardes of religious pilgrims and tourists alike, although the latter in much greater numbers for most of the year. We joined them and took three full, sweaty days to make our own tour. The buildings themselves, spread across many square miles, are astonishing and beautiful in different ways. Some have undergone heavy restoration to recapture their full 1,000 year old grandeur. Some have absurdly steep and dangerous stair-climbs to the top. Some are choked with tourists streaming from tour buses and some are inhabited only by chirping birds and a lone, crumbling Buddha statue. Some encourage Amy’s newfoud elephant obsession and some have hidden troupes of musicians that enhance the mystique of the experience. Still others have been left in their natural state, swallowed and strangled by trees with roots like giant pythons. Of the dozens of sites we visited, those that have been left to the mercy of the jungle were most captivating to our eyes. Silk Cotton and Strangler Fig trees take root in the sandstone roof cracks, growing down and weaving thin roots through the masonry of temples, libraries and palaces. As the trees grow, their roots wedge the building’s blocks apart until the tree becomes a part of the building, consuming it, supporting it, lending it organic life. Eventually, as the tree is felled by storm or disease, the temple dies with it, leaving only moss covered rubble. Angkor is one of those rare earth places where every element of life, death, nature, humanity and divinity converge around you, and you can’t help but feel changed and so profoundly fortunate to be there. We’re still in nearby Siem Reap and we miss it already.


  1. Anonymous says:

    AMy beside this tree is my favorite picture so far. What an unbelievable place to experience! I’m so glad that you’re sharing this all with us -Becky

  2. lesli says:

    absolutely beautiful