Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas Day in the jungles of Cambodia

We rose at dawn and drove to the Ta Prohm temple in the jungles of Cambodia with Ley, our guide. Arriving at 7 am, well before the masses, we were alone and it was a dream world. Mist covered the temple complex, clearing gradually as sunlight broke through the trees to illuminate each detail of the intricately carved stone.

Quite the reverse of Angkor Wat (which rises magically from the jungle), Ta Prohm itself has been consumed by the giant strangler fig trees over a millennium. These trees, host to squawking parakeets & red and white squirrels, are as alive with sounds as the temples themselves lay silent.

As we departed an hour or so later (just before the hoards arrived), the jungle stirred with the sounds of drums, evoking a lost world when Khmer civilisation dominated South-East Asia. But the reality of modern day struck us as we passed the musicians, each member a victim of landmines.

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