Ta Prohm aka King’s Monastery, Cambodia

Ta Prohm is the modern name of the temple in Siem Reap, Cambodia, built in the Bayon style largely in the late 1The temple dating from 1187 originally was called Rajavihara, meaning “King’s monastery” in Sanskrit. The modern Khmer name “Ta Prohm” means “Old Brahma”. Ta Prohm was even used as a location in the film Tomb Raider.

The early French archaeologists intentionally left it partially unrestored. This is why until the present day enormous strangler figs (Ficus gibbosa) and even huger Thitpok  trees (Tetrameles nudiflora) grow from the towers and halls, spreading their gigantic roots over intricately carved stone, thus making Ta Prohm an icon of excellent architecture reconquered by the force of nature. This massive combination of art and vegetation is unique in the world, and one of the impressions nobody will ever forget. 

Ta Prohm was a monastery of enormous dimensions, 65 hectare, the size of some contemporary whole cities in contemporary Europe. According to a temple inscription 12,640 people lived here. Thousands of them were monks, but most of the inhabitants were laymen as supporters, including 615 female dancers. The monastery was enormously wealthy, as it had vast stores of silks, pearls, jewels and gold and was in charge of 3400 villages. It was a state within the state.

Banteay Srei aka Citadel of Women, Cambodia

The name Banteay Srei (sometimes written as ‘Banteay Srey’) translates from Khmer roughly as the ‘citadel of the women’. This name has only been applied recently (that’s ‘recently’ in a scale measured in centuries, so it’s still quite old), most likely because of the pink sandstone and the delicate carvings.

This beautiful 10th-century temple is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. It has some of the most exquisite carvings of any Khmer temple and has almost a storybook ambience. The detailed carving of the sculptures, lintels, and friezes make it a beautiful structure. The walls are covered with deep, intricate carvings, each one carved with superb detail.

Angkor Wat aka Temple City, Cambodia

Angkor Wat is an enormous Buddhist temple complex located in northern Cambodia. It was originally built in the first half of the 12th century as a Hindu temple. Spread across more than 400 acres, Angkor Wat is said to be the largest religious monument in the world. Its name, which translates to “temple city” in the Khmer language of the region, references the fact it was built by Emperor Suryavarman II, who ruled the region from 1113 to 1150, as the state temple and political center of his empire. Originally dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, Angkor Wat became a Buddhist temple by the end of the 12th century.

Although it is no longer an active temple, it serves as an important tourist attraction in Cambodia, despite the fact it sustained significant damage during the autocratic rule of the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s and in earlier regional conflicts.

It was “rediscovered” in 1840s by the French explorer Henri Mouhot, who wrote that the site was “grander than anything left to us by Greece or Rome.”

The compliment can likely be attributed to the temple’s design, which is supposed to represent Mount Meru, the home of the gods, according to tenets of both the Hindu and Buddhist faiths. Its five towers are intended to recreate the five peaks of Mount Meru, while the walls and moat below honor the surrounding mountain ranges and the sea.

Cambodia Street Food

Eating fried tarantulas, fried snakes and fried insects has become a popular photo opportunity for tourists in Cambodia. However, these delicacies is in danger of disappearing, thanks to deforestation and over-harvesting.

Angkor Thom, Cambodia

Angkor Thom, alternatively Nokor Thom located in present-day Cambodia, was the last and most enduring capital city of the Khmer Empire. It was established in the late twelfth century by King Jayavarman VII. Angkor Thom is undeniably an expression of the highest genius. It is, in three dimensions and on a scale worthy of an entire nation, the materialization of Buddhist cosmology, representing ideas that only great painters would dare to portray.