Kambodia is a medium sized country in south-east Asia. Its an area is 181,035 Km 2 and the population reaches a little more than 10 millions. Until about a decade ago the country suffered a devastating civil war, the murderous regime of the Khmer-Rouge, that was followed by Vietnamese occupation. This poor country, opened to international tourism only in the last few years, offers one of the greatest wonders of the world – a UNESCO “World legacy site"- the marvelous Khmer temple complex. The Khmer dynasty ruled for about 600 years, between the 9th and the 15th centuries. Their kingdom spread over an area of what is now known as Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. The Founder of the Dynasty – king Jayavarman and his descendants, built, in and around Angkor Thom, their capital, hundreds of gigantic temples.
As time passed the Khmer regime has decayed, the city and the temples were neglected and the tropical jungle covered the ruins. Angkor Thom was lost, forgotten and hardly known even to the local population. The site came back from oblivion in the 19th century when Henry Mouhot, a French botanist investigated the area and discovered the remains of the temples hidden under the thick jungle vegetation. Excavation and restoration works started at the turn of the 20th century and are still in process. Though only a fraction of the buildings have been restored, the splendor of the temples is breath taking. No less fascinating is the successful struggle of the wild jungle to re-capture the collapsing building.
Here is jast a preliminary realization of the conflict betweein the trees to the buildings
The gates of Angkor Thom - the ancient capital - are guarded by ferociouos stone soldiers. Many of the buildings, including the 8 meter high city walls can still be seen. In its climax, in the 12th century, Angkor Thom was one of the biggest cities of the world, with nearly a million inhabitants!
The eternal struggle between man made structure and the jungle. Many temples have been cleaned and restored, but some were left nearly un-touched, clearing only a narrow lane for visitors (e.g. “Beng Melea” the “Jungle temple”). Some others were partially cleaned and remnants of the rain forest can be seen entangled within the walls. We are now on the way towards two such temples (Ta Prohm and Koker) situated about 140 km from the province capital Siem Reap. Most of the famous temples are in the vicinity of this town and it serves as a home base of all the excursions in the area.
“Beng Melea” temple - The entrance clearly shows the struggle between the nature and man made structures.
“Banteay Kdei” temple. Here we’ll direct our attention less towards the building itself and more towards the multitude of ornaments: sculptures and reliefs depicting plants, lions and human figures, ex: dancers, guards etc.
Finally, the greatest of them all – “Angkor Vat”. Considered the biggest temple in the world, this complex is spread over 30 hectares and is surrounded by walls and water filled moats ( remains thereof are seen below).