In search of a quieter place to enjoy antiquity, our driver takes us on a long road through the park. I know it’s still the archaeological park, because there are no commercial signs, and well-paved roads bounded by ancient-looking stone walls (although the miles and miles of walls are too intact to be original, I think).
Then, no more pavement, we are off on a dirt track through the forest. The tuk-tuk lurches across cavernous potholes, but finally the road ends at… what? At first it just looks like more forest. A few huge building-suitable stones lie tumbled on the ground. A battered sign nailed to a tree reads “DO NOT FEED THE GIBBONS.” We don’t see any gibbons, or even the more ubiquitous macaques, but it looks like someone has tried to pull the sign down.
We have to look around for a minute to get used to seeing the forest, and seeing something that is not the forest. Is that a ruined stone temple over there?
Oh, go ahead, turn the sound up on the video, so you can hear…. absolutely nothing. No traffic, no people, no animals, just the still of the forest and ancient history.
There’s no well-defined path into the ruin; we pick our way over the fallen stones, and between living trees.
Structurally, the place is rightly called a ruin. Yet, even after 800 or so years of exposure to the elements, some of the artistic stone carving is strikingly fresh. (I saved some of these photos at higher resolution, so you can have a close look):
The dome-like roof in the last photo seems to be shaped like a stupa, with a row of Buddhas meditating under it. A far cry, religiously, from the Hindu images of Angkor Wat, although close in time.
This lintel piece has fallen, but the design, suggestive of forest motifs, is clear and sharp.
We were on the way out when something caught my eye, a moss-covered seated Buddha on a projecting panel above the doorway. See it?
Despite the destruction, this feels like a place of deep magic: great for meditation.