Built mostly during the reign of Jayavarman VII from 1181-1201, Angkor Thom was a fortified city that covered over 4 square miles and housed a million people or more. Now designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site, restoration of the temples by the French began in the early 20th century. It continues today under the auspices of the United Nations. Not only did we see massive structures in all stages of excavation and renovation, we also saw some of the processes by which they were first created. This is a demonstration of the process by which stones were lifted into place and aligned to form a structurally-sound unit. This was necessary because the temples are not held together by mortar....just massive stones carefully placed to create buildings which would stand for centuries.
Since many of the carvings that adorned the temples have been damaged or destroyed, workers are creating new ones. This man was duplicating existing carvings using tools similar to the ones which sculpted the originals.
The Bayon offers a number of popular photo-op spots where one can appear to be touching noses with one of the carved faces, as Jimmy Joe does here.
After the Khmer empire fell in the 15th century, this site was abandoned and neglected for hundreds of years. Rediscovered in the 19th century it had been to a large extent reclaimed by Cambodia's rainforest. If some of these images look familiar, you may have seen them in the movies. We were told that scenes from the movie Tomb Raider were shot at Ta Prohm.
As with all the sites we viewed, we shared the experience with many other visitors. Here Nine and our guide take a break while waiting to enter one of the buildings.
Much of Ta Prohm is still in ruins today. When it was discovered, the decision was made to leave it largely as it was found. However, many of the structures have been partially restored, to permit access and stabilize the ruins.
Fortunately, some have been left at least partly in the grasp of the magnificent trees that grew up through and around them. These trees are of several types, but the largest are said to be silk-cotton trees and the smaller ones are strangler figs. (A most appropriate name in my opinion!)
The one below looks like a woman standing on her head with her long hair cascading over the wall.
At the end of the day, we were four tired puppies! Here John and Nine wait while patiently Jimmy and I take "just one more shot."