Prasat Pram

Cambodia November-December 2016 (25 photos)

In the previous post, Lignum Draco and the Temples of Doom (5) we visited the northern Cambodian-Thai border. Now let’s look at a couple more temples before ending this series near the western border with Thailand.

Koh Ker is a former capital of the Khmer kingdom and a remote archaeological site in northern Cambodia about 120 kilometres (75 miles) away from Siem Reap. It is a jungle region that is sparsely populated. More than 180 temples were found in a protected area of 81 square kilometres (31 sq mi). The temples in this area were built in the 10th century. However only a few can be visited by tourists because most of the sanctuaries are hidden in the forest and the whole area is not fully de-mined.

We previously visited this region when viewing the pyramid at Prasat Thom in Lignum Draco and the Temples of Doom (4). Now let’s look at one of the smaller temples of this region, Prasat Pram.

Prasat Pram features five structures of which a couple are caught in the net of the jungle. I spent over an hour here with my guide and didn’t see another person at all in that time. Solitude is easy to find away from the main tourist sites.

As has been the case throughout this 6 part series, I’ve adopted a mixed processing style depending on the photo. The sepia tint seems very appropriate for these temples.

The Eastern Mebon is a Hindu temple built in the 10th century by King Rajendravarman II in honour of his parents.

Banteay Chhmar

Banteay Chhmar is a commune in Thma Puok District in Banteay Meanchey province in northwest Cambodia. It is located 63 km north of Sisophon and about 20 km east of the Thai border, about 160 km from Siem Reap. The temple complex of Banteay Chhmar, along with its satellite shrines and reservoir (baray), comprises one of the most important and least understood archaeological complexes from Cambodia’s Angkor period.

As at other remote temple sites, foreign visitors must pay a fee to enter. Here, I also had to enter my name and details in a book. The book entry immediately before mine was by a British couple from 2 days earlier. There was no other tourist there during the hours I was there. Being so remote, Banteay Chhmar is truly for those who want to get away from other tourists.

The inner temple is a jumble of bricks and collapsed buildings. There are no walkways. The only access is by scrambling over the bricks and buildings. This is one of the few temples where this is allowed. Above, the “path” is directly ahead. From personal experience, I can tell you that not all the bricks are stable.

But the rewards are great if you are able to make the effort to enter the inner temple.

This was the only temple of all that I visited where intact carvings of the image of Buddha still remain.

See the break in the wall just on the right. That’s the “path”.

Like Angkor Thom, the temple of Banteay Chhmar was built during the reign of Jayavarman VII in the late 12th or early 13th century. As such, the complex resembles Angkor Thom and other structures attributed to Jayavarman VII. It is one of two sites outside Angkor with the enigmatic face-towers that are characteristic of The Bayon.

Continuing through the temple, the outer gallery is carved with bas-reliefs depicting military engagements and daily life scenes very similar to the well-known ones at The Bayon.

A very well preserved image of the Hindu God, Shiva.

Because of its remote location and its proximity to the Thai border, the complex has been subjected to severe looting, especially in the 1990s. Despite that, many beautiful carvings remain.

About half an hour away from Banteay Chhmar, past the reservoir and through farmland is the deserted temple of Banteay Top. I’m not sure how much longer this one will be standing for.

“Waiting for tourists to arrive at Ta Prohm.”

Tourism is a two-edged sword. Cambodia is one of the poorer countries in the world, yet within its borders is Angkor, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. The locals desperately need the dollars that tourism generates but in return, Siem Reap is being changed. It is probably already unrecognisable to someone who visited 10 years or more ago due to the continual development that is now occurring. The peak tourism season is from November to February. Over 2 million foreign tourists visited Angkor in 2015.

“One of the team of villagers who clears weeds by hand from the temples.”

The temples are a security blanket to the local population. They provide the nation with its identity and to many locals, they provide the security of employment.

“Behind the scenes.”

In particular, I am indebted to my very knowledgable, friendly and extremely patient local guide. I shudder to think the number of times we started walking away from a location only for him to realise I had stopped again to take more photos.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this short series of posts about the Temples of the Khmer Empire. It’s hard to imagine that after the fall of the Khmer empire, these temple sites were essentially lost and doomed to be overgrown by the jungle until their so-called rediscovery approximately 100 years ago.

I know I’ve only returned from holidays a few weeks ago but as I mentioned earlier I am heading off on holidays again soon. In fact, I’m leaving for overseas next week. I should be able to sneak in another post or two before I leave.

Leica Etcetera, Photography Etcetera

Lignum Draco and the Temples of Doom (Final)

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83 thoughts on “Lignum Draco and the Temples of Doom (Final)

  1. Exquisite. A thoroughly enjoyable series, and very educational. I know you have given many readers travel pointers, Draco, that is such a service!
    I am wondering, given that the most famous temple complex, Angkor Watt, as astronomical connections, if these other temples also do ( would be suprised if they didn’t) and if your all knowledgeable guide dropped any hints in that field?

    Fascinating series, with superb photos, thank you.
    enjoy your next trip!

    • Thank you very much, Debbie.

      We’ve touched on that point before, in the facts you mentioned and also in reference to the theory about the Draco constellation, but apart from that I don’t know much more. If there were astronomical connections, I think they would pale next to those about Angkor Wat. No, my guide didn’t go into much astronomy apart from the relationship of the equinox sunrise and Angkor.

  2. Love the tint. The elephant shot is haunting. The last guardian of the temple. Tourism is necessary to bring jobs and help the economy. Sadly, this probably means that sex tourism is thriving as well. Thanks for all of the incredible photos.

    • The elephant statues were rather impressive. Elephants have a special place in Cambodia but there aren’t many left. Although there is an elephant sanctuary/refuge in the jungle in the northeast of the country I considered visiting.

      Popular tourism changes everything. “Traditional” massage parlours are everywhere. The other kind is probably a thriving business, too.

      Thanks for coming along for the tour, Julie.

  3. Thank you, Dragon for another awesome series! Remarkable photos for wrapping up your grand tour of this magnificent and glorious place.
    Will visit this post and other series again when I’m back home from CA. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

  4. I have delighted in this series, Draco, thank you. These photos today had a rich and haunting quality, and your words too. Climbing around in the pathless, loose rocks is an intriguing element. In today’s post I love the first photo, with the doorway closing in by vines. And I love the carvings you were able to capture of Shiva and the next three. These are astounding. And also, I enjoyed the people photos and your words on the changing tourism culture. Fantastic photo too of tourists waiting at Ta Prohm. Have a wonderful journey overseas. The sharing of your adventures is much appreciated.

    • Thank you very much, Jet. The sight of Nature overpowering the temples is a sobering one. Yet the trees are also protecting them, as if in symbiosis.

      The quality of the carvings is amazing. So well preserved, yet much has been lost to looters and treasure hunters. I hope that what is left can be saved for generations more to see.

      It’s been a pleasure for me to go back through my photos and post them now. Great memories. Great experience.

  5. I’ve really enjoyed our, I mean, your, trip to Cambodia. πŸ™‚ Thanks for letting me tag along. Through it all, those massive tree roots stand out, literally as well as figuratively. They’re so sci-fi/LOTR!

    janet

    • That’s what I like about blogs and the web. We can all travel at the touch of a button. Thank you very much, Janet.

      The trees reinforce that Nature is an all powerful force. You’re right, these scenes would not have been out of place in Middle Earth and Fangorn Forest. Very surreal at times.

  6. These are, as always, simply breathtaking and amazing. I’m going to have to share this with my dear, dear friends. She is from Thailand and married her wonderful husband while he was in Nam. She still has family in Thailand and they go back at times to visit. I told them about your photos so now I’m going to have to show them! πŸ˜€

  7. You are quite right, the sepia tint works very well with these images. Love the carvings they are very beautiful and I hope they remain for a very long time to come. Your Cambodia trip was fascinating and very enjoyable, I thank you for taking me with you and I hope I wasn’t too much of a burden. xx

  8. Hauntingly beautiful photos, Draco. Those carvings were exquisite, Shiva and that boat scene with all the fish in the ocean! Made me shudder a bit at the awesomeness of peoples’ history lying abandoned. Thanks.

  9. If the place is not fully de-mined, who knows what you may find or stumble across 😏 Very nice to have the place to yourself and you could watch your footing in peace and quiet – and take the magnificent architecture in. Wonderful shots.

    • I just checked via google. In the first half of 2016, there were 20 deaths and 29 non-fatal injuries from landmines in Cambodia, mostly in the NW region, which is essentially Angkor. When my guide told me not to go wander off, I listened.

      Having the remote temples to myself was a great experience. No-one wants to be stuck on holidays with tourists. πŸ˜‰

      Thank you, Cambodia is so photogenic.

      • That is quite a few people unfortunately injured by landmines. Wise of you to stay close to the guide – he probably has a good idea of the safer areas. As a tourist, you just never know what is out there where you travel and you have to trust the locals.

        Good, good. No one obstructing your shots πŸ™‚

  10. You are going away for more treats for us πŸ™‚ I marvel at the beauty and intricacy of these carvings and your captures of them. Very glad to see that your job permits you to travel so much πŸ™‚

    • The carvings were a visual delight. I didn’t expect to see such detail after all these years.

      Thank you, Paula. I’m not bound normal rules. I like to take 8 to 12 weeks off each year.

  11. Juan says:

    Gracias de nuevo. Es la posibilidad de estar en esos maravillosos lugares. Una imagen es mΓ‘s importante que muchas palabras. (Thanks again. Is the possibility of stay in these beautiful places. An image is most important that many words. Remember, my english is very bad).

  12. I really enjoyed this series Mr Draco .. I smiled when I read about your guide and you stopping frequently .. I bet! πŸ˜‰ Wonderful photos and edits my friend. Cambodia is on my bucket list .. thank you so much for sharing your visit!

    • Thank you very much, Julie. I’ll bet when you get there, you’ll be doing exactly the same. Everything is so photogenic. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

      I need to start clearing my SD cards for my next trip. πŸ™‚

  13. It is just a stunning hidden place… almost fantasy, but of course not! I love the way those tree roots are spreading out and embracing the buildings!!! I think your sepia tone works really well. It’s difficult to know when it’s wise to use sepia sometimes. But every now and then… it just works very naturally. Thanks for showing me a world I would never have otherwise seen. πŸ™‚

    • Thank you, Suzy. It was a real eye opening experience to walk amongst the temples, knowing that history had forgotten them, and seeing the way the jungle devoured them.It certainly gave me a sense of my standing in the world. It’s an amazing place.

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