Tomb Raider Arise!

East Gate entrance to the jungle temple.

East Gate entrance to the jungle temple.

When touring with the family on holiday at times, you just have to seize the opportunity and do they best you can when it comes to capturing the scenery and people around you. You cannot slow down to your normal speed whilst out and about with photography in mind; that’s because family members will be bored stiff and you feel the friendly ‘dagger eyes’ in the back of you telling you to take your time, but “hurry up will ya'” type of patience that often results in merely shoot and move. There’s rarely a time to wait for the “that” moment to present itself – you just have to do the best you can, right?

Having shot Angkor Wat the prior morning and faced with a huge and unfriendly crowd of people (see my tongue and cheek post) – mainly non-photographers or photographer

wannabe’s (aka, anyone with a camera shooting in no-light situation  handheld and with flash turned – anymore than 10 ft away and the flash is totally useless) … save that for the prior post, I wanted something a little less stressful and serene. Obtaining a tip location from the hotel, I decided to try it. When I first arrived, there was maybe 2 others milling about in the darkness. I thought at first was “this could be a bust … I woke up for nothing”, but as the hint of light on the

The moss covered sandstone temple  is slowly being overtaken by forest overgrowth.

The moss covered sandstone temple is slowly being overtaken by forest overgrowth.

horizon began to show itself, a scene was developing that was absolutely magical. (see image above)

As you can imagine … deep blues and warm orangey colors began to light up across a now brilliant pool in front of me. Positioning myself where a temple once stood several hundreds of years ago, pointing westward over the temple’s reflection pool with only a couple of

protective Naga’s flanking the steps down towards it’s pool, I now understand why this was placed here – a truly spectacular view of a night turning into day.

After the sun had risen high enough to dilute the beautiful colors of pre-sunrise, we headed over to Ta Phrom not but a couple of minutes down the road. I had

Small beams of light are let in during the early AM. Framing camera right with just enough of the sun to produce a flare, accentuates the awakening of a new day.

Small beams of light are let in during the early AM. Framing camera right with just enough of the sun to produce a flare, accentuates the awakening of a new day.

gotten a tip from a couple of travel agents whilst on a Seqway tour of the old city of Bangkok when I mentioned that I was going to Siem Reap with all intentions of visiting the famous Wat’s in the area. Major tip: go to early – especially to the temple of  Ta Phrom. The “early” advice is a good one for any of the Wat’s (they open the park at 5:00am). Because it gets super crowded during the ‘normal’ hours – especially during the dry season and during the xmas holiday where tourism skyrockets!

By the time I had left (during the couple hours of exploration in this small temple), beams of morning light began to shine through the surrounding trees and doorways signaling a new day. As the cool morning air (~25*c) slowly began to heat up the courtyards, the mossy

Dark narrow corridors give you a sense of claustrophobia

Dark narrow corridors give you a sense of claustrophobia along with a cool breeze trickling in from open aired doorways.

earthen hallways remained bitingly cool. It was truly a sensory experience – especially sans hoards of people.

We were 3 or maybe a total of 10 people meandering and snaking through the many narrow corridors or the ruins often having to hop over fallen walls opening up into courtyards of moss covered sandstone and surrounding Banyan trees that are engulfing themselves around the through these ancient walls. It felt like a movie set … wait … it was! Ta Phrom played the backdrop for Angelina Jolie’s ‘Tomb Raider’ movie some years ago. I’m sure it also provided inspiration to the ‘Indiana Jones’ series as well. With every turn, the decaying temple got better and better – even with the massive restoration occurring around and within it.

It was about 6:30 or 7am at the time where I had spent a good couple of hours

Banyan Trees invading the temple grounds

Banyan Trees invading the temple grounds

finding little nooks and crannies while taking full advantage of the peacefulness of this wondrous place virtually void of people and voices. It was truly a special thing to experience with others ruining this moments with laughter, chatter and trampling into my shots. Tip: go as early as you can. you will be rewarded greatly for it. As we headed back down towards the eastern gate of Ta Phrom, already several tour groups (and loud Tour Guides) and others were already making their way towards the temple. Jumping in our Tuktuk, for a good mile or so, all we saw were a parade of people heading towards the temple – about 500 in my estimation. Phew … dodged that bullet!

When was the last time you followed a tip that turned out to be golden?

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