Advantages The best of Angkor
Disadvantages None, unless you hit it midday
They talk of it as being hidden deep in the jungle, “overrun by parrots, cicadas and banyan trees”.Of course it isn’t quite like that.
Unless you happen to be very lucky.Unless, for instance, your guide (who doesn’t know that this one building out of all the others is the sole reason you are in his country at all) decides that you are the kind of person who needs to see this place as it is meant to be seen.
In a quiet solitude.In the pre-dawn greyness a gateway loomed with the moon behind it. It was deathly quiet. Only three of us wandered beneath the ancient walls. Human beings: tiny insignificant beings of the kind who long ago had constructed this temple, but who felt their insignificance even more in the presence of the mighty trees who were slowly, inexorably, ripping it apart. Roots grasp the mighty walls like giant fingers, taking hold, ready to
It is silent. The trees do not bend or moan in the predawn breeze. The slight dew does not drip from branches or overhanging stonework. If night-creatures haunt this place, they are gone already. The daytime chaos of tourists and hawkers is yet to awaken. For now there are three of us, scarcely daring to breathe, or click a camera, or take a step.It is a sacred space. Echoing with history, and faith, and myth, and the overwhelming power of the natural world that contains or crushes all of the others.
Ta Prohm at daybreak is an experience that etches itself onto your soul, so that the being there is reason enough. If you get this lucky, you will never forget it.Then day breaks.
It doesn’t come creeping over the walls or seeping through the branches as I might have expected. It shatters the night. Day erupts, screaming with the wail of a fire alarm. What the ….!Ah yes: the cicadas are awake.
And extremely angry by the sound of them. A pair of geckos echo across the site trying to hold a conversation, but you can’t help wondering if they’re also just bemoaning the sudden the screeching of insects.The upside is that now you have daylight and can begin to try to capture some of this glorious experience in media more tangible than your mind. By the time we came to leave one or two other early explorers were beginning to arrive, but it would be some 12 hours later when we drove past the gates, with the market in full swing, the tour buses parked up, the children begging the last of the moneyed visitors to buy something, that we’d fully appreciate how lucky we were. If you can’t get there at dawn, spend the day hiking and aim to arrive as everyone else is leaving.
Ta Prohm is not a place to be shared.WHAT AND WHERE
So much for the eulogy – you want some facts and figures.Ta Prohm is one of the many temples that comprise Angkor, the area just beyond Siem Reap in western Cambodia. Understandably most famous of them all is Angkor Wat itself – the largest religious site in the world – but the whole Angkor region is under UNESCO world heritage designation and protection, any number of countries are involved in funding or otherwise supporting the archaeological and restoration activities on temples large and small throughout the area.
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