Ta Phrom Temple, Cambodia

Although some restoration work is underway at the site, Ta Phrom temple remains in a state of disrepair. The quiet grandeur of this eight to nine hundred year old temple complex nonetheless shines through the rundown condition of many of the structures. In fact those conditions may actually enhance the grandeur. I remember being astonished by the soft colors and faded beauty of the Temple of the Sun in Beijing when I first visited in 1987. When I returned 25 years later, the site had been “restored” and looked like a gaudy movie set; it was very disappointing. In fairness, restoration work at the Forbidden City has, in my opinion, done an excellent job retaining the feel the place had before work began. Be that as it may, restoration is needed to preserve sites like Angkor Wat and the Forbidden City and to protect them from the damage the millions of tourists who visit each year can do, whether inadvertently or maliciously. Hopefully the work here will proceed with a sensitivity to retaining the sense of ancient power this place has.

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Banteay Srei Temple, Cambodia

Carvings and bas-relief decorate the walls and surfaces of many of the temples that make up the Angkor Wat complex. The figure in the center is this wall art is the Hindu deity Shiva – I am pretty sure I have this right – and the figure below Shiva is a Garuda, a mythical bird that helps to protect the god. Not as certain I have that last part right. The photo was taken at Banteay Srei, a 10th century Khmer temple dedicated to Shiva. The carving pictured here is small and highly detailed, part of a larger section of wall. I had the camera up close to the wall and would guess the real-world dimensions of the artwork in this photo are roughly 15 by 10 inches (40 by 25 centimeters).

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The Face of Buddha, Cambodia

The Bayon temple, part of the enormous Angkor Wat temple area in Cambodia, has numerous faces of the Buddha carved into the temple’s towers. The best known of these is a smiling Buddha face. I tried to get a photo of that one, but it was surrounded by a large group of Chinese tourists taking photos in front of the face one or two at a time. I gave up and decided I could live with some shots of lesser known carvings.

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