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Postcard from Cambodia

Destinations - 31/05/2016 - Article : Dominique Haim - Photos : Dominique Haim

Khmer temples of Ta Prohm and Preah Khan, Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Anonymous. No art or installation per se. But everything is here! The work of men carving rocks, abandoned to nature, which ultimately takes over. How could we not mention this place, which is all « Sculpture Nature » ? This is Angkor and its scores of Khmer temples, Cambodia.

The power emanating from these sites is unparalleled. At least to me, not having yet witnessed Egypt’s pyramids or Mexican temples, it certainly is. It would be unthinkable not to mention the majesty and grandeur of this colossal architecture, proof of the talent of the human hand. Impossible not to acknowledge the achievement, in just a few years (although it required the labor of no less than 300,000 to 400,000 men, the temples were usually completed within 35 to 40 years), of awe inspiring monuments, built with stones that were brought down from the surrounding mountains by elephants; stones that were meticulously carved at a time when mechanical instruments did not even exist, and then laid without mortar to form imposing walls, chiseled with infinite refinement to share the legends of the gods and goddesses as well as Buddhist and Hindu religious symbols. 

But after four or five centuries of a rich and intense life, these royal and solemn temples were abandoned, almost overnight, and nature reclaimed them. And what nature! Grandiose… Majestic… Just like the temples’ imposing and breathtaking architecture.

It was therefore unimaginable not to share these works of art and nature in our blog.  We strongly recommend you go see them as soon as possible, for tourism in Siem Reap is developing at a terrifying speed. Within five years, they have attracted from a few hundred thousand visitors a year to over three million today and they are hoping to reach ten million visitors within the next five years.


Located in the north west region of Cambodia near the city of Siem Reap, Angkor covers approximately 150 square miles and is composed of a multitude of temples, hydraulic structures and communication routes, vestiges of what used to be, from the IXth to the XVth century, the capital of the Khmer Empire and one of the largest cities of the medieval world. Only the religious monuments, built with durable materials such as stone or bricks, survived time and remain visible today; profane buildings, including royal palaces, built in perishable materials such as wood, have since disappeared. These sanctuaries can be classified into two main configurations: the “mountain temples”, topped with towers arranged in quincunx, evocative of the peaks of Mount Meru, a mythical mountain which was thought to be the world’s axis, and surrounded by walls, moats and galleries – the perfect illustration of this architecture is Angkor Vat – and the single level monastic complexes. They are all adorned with scores of sculptures and bas-reliefs.

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