The “Tree Temples” of Ta Prohm and Ta Som

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Ta Prohm is one of the most visited temple complexes in Angkor. It is photogenic and has a unique atmosphere with it’s “jungle” setting and many examples of ruins in the clasp of strangler figs, silk-cottons and titpoks.

Ta Prohm was built by King Jayavarman VII as a monastery and university, it was dedicated to his mother and is one of his earliest projects. It used to be home to over 12,000 inhabitants and a massive wall encloses an area of 650,000 square meters! What makes Ta Prohm unique is that French archeologists made a conscious decision to leave it mostly unrestored and allowing nature to reclaim it’s architecture.

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Ta Som is in turn dedicated to King Jayavarman VII’s father and is built in a similar style and time as Ta Prohm and it is also largely unrestored. The East entrance has one of the finest examples of Angkor’s stone strangling trees, sadly this tree has died and is decomposing.

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Ta Som is much smaller than Ta Prohm and is surrounded by a moat and has an Eastern and Western entrance featuring Bayon style faces which are smaller than those at Bayon itself, these gates are set in a surrounding wall measuring about 200m by 240m. The interior galleries feature interesting and individual carvings, some of surprising quality.

Beautiful Bayon Temple – Angkor

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Bayon Temple is an incredible introduction to the Ankor complex of temples. The sheer size and scale of the architecture, complexity and variety of what can be found in the Ankor Archeological Park is captured in Bayon.

Bayon, along with Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm make up the tourist big 3 of Angkor but do not for a moment believe that this is all that is worthwhile. Bayon is in fact an enormous appetizer for the feast to follow.

Built in the late 12th century during the reign of King Jayavarman VII, the temple today has 37 standing towers, most with trademark smiling faces on 4 sides of each tower. Bayon is part of the Angkor Thom complex which isĀ  distinct from Angkor Wat, it is in fact almost 2 kilometers away from Angkor Wat along a beautiful, shaded tree-lined route through dense forest.

To begin to get appreciate the size of Angkor Thom, I was struck by the massive 100m wide moat that surrounds it and it is fortified by 8m high walls on 4 sides, each boundary wall is 3 kilometers long, making Angkor Thom the second-largest historical temple compound in the world! There are 5 gates and I entered though the South Gate.

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Bayon itself is an impressive structure, with 37 of approximately 50 original towers remaining. The central tower rises an imposing 43m above the ground. The first impression is of a mass of dark stone but how deceiving first impressions can be.

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The interior is a treasure trove of Khmer art and architecture, the outer gallery of Bayon contains more than 11,000 carved figures covering walls more than 1.2km in length. The intricate carvings depict battle scenes and also scenes from everyday life.

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The inner enclosure is made up of many interesting passages and alcoves and by contrast to the outer gallery contains many Hindu carvings from a later era depicting Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma.

The upper terrace of Bayon is home to the famous faces that are said to depict either Avalokiteshvara, the Buddhist Lord of the World, or King Jayavarman VII

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and I was not the only visitor to have enjoyed this complex and spectacular temple, this handsome Macaque also appeared to be taking in Bayon’s beauty.

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Brooding change,
a deepening unease.
Crisp, cutting breath
rolling off the ocean,
urging whispers.

Familiar, final hesitation,
lingering a moment.

Growing disquiet,
compulsion to rise, to provision,
it is nigh time.

Time to move on,
a little shuffle,
along a deserted alley,
down a muddy track.

Another journey, another farewell.

Photo: Grant Street, Cottesloe ~ 26/04/16
Words: Restless ~ 26/04/16

both by Rean du Toit


imfolozi trail cropped


My words and pictures hunger for a home,
a haven, a sanctuary.
Sheltered amongst kin,
communing around a little fire,
breaking bread with you at night.

Join me my friends,
glimpse my soul,
feel my heart.

I lay it bare,
not to be trampled
but to share.

Photo: iMfolozi Wilderness area ~ 09/14 by Mike du Trevou
Words: Reveal ~ 07/05/16 by Rean du Toit