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.
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.
Brother Phil and I arrived last night in Siem Reap and spent our first day visiting temples. This is the Bayon temple at Angkor Thom, a large area enclosed by a moat that was established in the 12th century and served as the capital city of the Khmer empire of the time. I learned a great deal today – more than I could absorb really – about the tensions between Hinduism and Buddhism that characterized much of the history of the Khmer civilization and are reflected in the construction of temples like this one and the sculptures and bas-relief carvings that decorate the temples. This trip is a short visit (three and a half days) to an area filled with ancient temples and ruins – enough time to get little more than a taste. And of course, some of that time will go to shooting photos.
Buddhist pagodas in Vietnam bear a resemblance to pagodas in China with one significant difference – the dragons decorating the roof tops. Virtually every pagoda in Vietnam has dragon decorations on the roof tops; they give Vietnamese pagodas their distinctive style. As far as I know, Buddhist temples elsewhere have nothing comparable. Late afternoon light on a crystal clear day has the roof top dragons at this small temple almost glowing. The Chinese characters say something like “golden hall of the ancestors”, but I am not sure of the Vietnamese name of this Da Nang pagoda.