Monday, August 20, 2007

Siem Reap: The Raided Tomb

Looks familiar? Well, this was the location of that famous scene where Angelina.... ahem... I mean Lara Croft battled the bad guys in the movie Tomb Raider.

So there I was, half expecting a buxomy yet athletic Mrs Pitt in a skin tight leather outfit to strut out of the shadowy courtyard armed with a machine gun..... My apologies. Daydreaming again.

Ahem..... Anyway, this is the ancient site of Ta Phrom, which was originally built as a monastery back in the late 12th century AD, in honour of King Jayavarman VII's mother.

This temple was chosen by the principal restoration authorities to be left in situ as an example of how the entire Angkor complex looked like when they were first discovered back in the 19th century.

Nature seemed to have taken over where man left off. It was an amazing sight to behold, the gigantic roots of trees that grow intertwined amongst the columns and ruins giving it a romantic quality that have inspired many an artist (or tomb raider).

According to the guidebooks, two species of trees are prominent here: the strangler fig (above and topmost pics)) with its great mass of thin, smooth grey roots and the larger silk cotton tree with its brown roots and knobbly texture (below and last pics).

Just to give you an idea of just how big those silk-cotton tree roots were....

The trees start by taking root in a crevice within the superstructure of the building and extends its roots into the masonry in its effort to reach downwards into the soil. In time, the roots grow thicker, gradually wedging open the stone blocks.

The trees then become somewhat of a support structure for the crumbling building, but when the trees themselves die or are felled during a storm, the loosened rocks collapse in their wake.

It started to drizzle a little halfway through our exploration of the site, hence the sombre quality of most of these pics. The flipside of it was we didn't sweat as much (read: stinky) and the leafy canopy over our heads helped shield us from the raindrops.

Although the crumbling state of the temple complex is actually left that way on purpose, there is evidence of reconstruction in various parts, perhaps just enough to make sure the blocks don't suddenly drop onto a tourist's head. :)

There are various entrances to the centre courtyard, and almost all of them are very elaborately decorated with bas reliefs of Hindu deities and of course those naughty little minxes, the Apsaras(es?).

I could go on and on about the library, the cross-shaped gallery, the side towers... but in the words of Shirley, they probably looked like more of the SOT (same-old-thing). Getting a bit temple-weary, eh Shirley?

Parting shot: Makes one feel somewhat small and insignificant doesn't it?

1 comment:

Kit said...

what beautiful photographs! i especially loved the trees and how the roots seem to grow and grow. a beautiful site that i hope will be preserved. again, wonderful pictures, thanks for sharing them.