|[First glimpse of Angkor Wat from Western Gateway]|
As predicted, it was impossible for me to take this photo without a fair few tourists also in the frame – and this was at 6am! I’m just impressed at the sheer emptiness of FPM’s photo. He must have had a wonderful time wandering around without a soul in sight. And certainly not a forest of selfie sticks at every turn! Nonetheless, this sight was enough to make me stop and catch my breath, tourists or no. It was every bit as impressive in real life as I thought it would be.
|[Temple of Bakheng, Angkor Thom]|
FPM seems to have got a bit mixed up with this one – this is Phimeanakas, the Royal Temple. The lions (or Kuchasey) have undergone a bit of restoration, especially the poor chap on the bottom right who looks like he’s been spliced with some table legs, although he seems to have traded proper looking legs in exchange for his face in the 2015 picture… A few Kuchasey and some colonnades at the top have vanished, but otherwise this is mostly unchanged. This temple was pretty, but not one of my favourites. It felt a little forgotten, and there were none of the intricate carvings or ornate walkways to enchant.
|[Black stone image of Buddha Angkor Thom]|
I’m really impressed our guide found this match. I thought the statue to the left was probably person sized, much like the Leper King statue. But no! This is actually a really very large statue of the Buddha. It has now been covered by a shelter and a steady stream of people come to pay their respects and leave offerings. Our guide told us that there were a few of these large Buddhas arranged around Angkor Thom, but this was most likely to be the one in the photo. I’d say it looks like a good guess to me.
|[Ruined causeway to Bakheng Palace, Angkor Thom]|
This is one of my favourite side-by-sides. I love just how ruined the temple was before, and how neat it looks now! This is actually Baphuon, there is no causeway to Bakheng. There’s a story passed on to us by our guide about the grand re-opening of Baphuon in 2011, following years of restoration (as you can imagine, given the before photo!). Walkways had been built so you could climb right to the very top layer to enjoy the superb views. Unfortunately, shortly after the re-opening ceremony, a visiting Russian dignitary fell off the top of the temple and broke his leg in several places. The top layer is now closed to visitors….
|[Ruined temple and monastery of Ta Prohm]|
FPM has labelled this as Ta Prohm, but our guide disputed that. My picture is from Ta Som, which he believes is the true location of this picture. He was right about everything else, so I have no reason to doubt he was right about this, as well! Ta Som was restored between 1998 and 2012, with all traces of strangler fig absent from this entrance gateway. Our guide also mentioned that Ta Prohm was probably still inaccessible in 1931, as it was the last of the temples to be ‘reclaimed’ from the forest. He pointed out that tigers still roamed the area at this time, and it would have been too dangerous for a rare Western tourist to go tramping around in a still jungle-encased temple. So, Ta Som it is. I’m glad our guide took us here anyway, as I think it ended up being one of my favourite temples, alongside Preah Khan. They’re both beautiful of course, but also there was an absolute peace and stillness that pervaded the site.
|[Entrance collonade to gate of Angkor Thom]|
This is actually taken on the approach road to the temple of Preah Khan, from the East. It’s right next door to the Angkor Thom site, so you can forgive the mix up. In fact, S and I got very confused about exactly which temples we’d been to during our trip and had to write it down so as we didn’t forget! Anyway, what’s interesting in this before and after is the level of build up of silt and sand on the road. In the 1931 picture, you can see all of the statues which line the road, whereas on the right some are covered up almost halfway. Our guide told us that multiple floods had washed in this silt, causing much more serious devastation in other parts of the region. The damage had cost the country millions, and repairs were still being made – including tree planting in the partially dried up reservoir nearby.
|[Near view of giants supporting Nag, Angkor Thom]|
This is a close up of the actual causeway, once you advance further down the road towards Preah Khan. This causeway is similar to others, namely the South gate of Angkor Thom, however the gateway itself is very different. Our guide pointed to a tiny carving and the position of a window as being the giveaway on this one – better he than I! He even knew that this was the East gate and not the West gate. Anyway, what’s striking about these before and after pictures is that every single head of the Gods on the left is missing. Our guide informed us that these statues, which in 1931 would have been recent replacements for the originals, were made at a cost of up to $100 million. There was then a huge problem with theft, because a head from one of these statues would fetch around $1 million on the black market. He lamented these stone poachers, usually from Thailand, who ruin such valuable restoration work for a fraction of what these statues are really worth. I got the feeling he didn’t like the Thai’s much…
|[Entrance gates to temples, Angkor Thom]|
I’ve tried to recreate FPM’s jaunty angle here; let’s call it modern photography? This is once again the East gate of Preah Khan, which is still undergoing restoration. The main tower is looking quite spruce, and the side towers are coming along nicely, too.
|[Detached building (query library) at Angkor Wat]|
FPM is back on his caption game with this one – this is indeed a library, which would have held religious scrolls. Libraries are found in most larger temples, and always run East-West. The door at the West is usually the only one that’s open, but as you can see here the libraries at Angkor Wat are unusual in that they’re open in all directions. Here I’ve got to apologise for my photography – don’t adjust your set, my photo really is that blurry. What can I say, I was cross at those tourists for stubbornly not moving out of my shot even though I waited in the blazing sun for ages! In terms of what’s changed, I’m impressed that things are largely the same here – one of the porches has collapsed a little, but other than that the place is looking pretty good. Even the colonettes are all the same.
|[Bas reliefs temple of Bayon]|
These bas-reliefs are still remarkably clear. There has been restoration work underway on Bayon, and this bas-relief shows some signs of a bit of a freshen up. Some bas-reliefs show scenes from mythology, and others show scenes from daily life. Further down the wall is a carving of a doctor helping a woman in childbirth, which I’m sure my great-grandfather would have liked as he was a doctor himself. There are also carvings of all the wild animals that the Khmer would have encountered in their daily lives, including crocodiles, birds and fish. There’s even an illustration of a man being mauled by a tiger! An ancient PSA, perhaps?!
|[Temple of Ta Keo, Angkor]|
I’ve not quite nailed the angle on this one, but I think you can see it’s the same place. This is the temple of Ta Keo, and we didn’t actually scale this one – our ever wise guide determined it wasn’t worth it. In one of FPM’s other photos he describes it as ‘primitive’, so perhaps we weren’t missing much! This one was restored just before FPM photographed it I think, and has stood the test of time very well.