Cautious Cambodia - 2007

The Hindu religion is hierarchical; the gods and deities are highest and the people are lowest; therefore the temples and other structures are solid symbols of the difference in importance and holiness between them. Common people have to climb to reach the level of the holiest ones. With an ankle sprained on our second day of this 6 week journey, I was impressed by this separation in every temple or monastery we visited—the rock steps were always steep and naturally there were no handrails. Going down these precipitous stairs was a lesson in patience and forbearance. T A P ROHM Ta Prohm is the other well-advertised single temple in the whole compound. It is the “Jungle Temple” because it has been left pretty much unexcavated so that it is easy to see what happens to these mighty works of man when nature is allowed to reclaim her own! The enormous silkwood trees, the banyans, and kapoks are assaulting the walls and roofs of the temple and gradually bringing them down.

The grasping octopus roots of these trees rise over the thick walls and crush them under their living weight or cleave them in half with their probing “fingers.” This temple is probably the most photographed, after Angkor Wat itself, because of this striking ongoing drama of nature against man’s constructions.

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