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#72 Cambodia – Siem Reap

Back in 2007 an international team investigating Angkor in Siem Reap province, found the old Khmer capital to be the largest preindustrial city in the world. At its heart lay the 12th Century Angkor Wat, itself the world’s largest religious monument. Certainly amongst the most beautiful man-made structures ever made, French explorer Henri Mouthot, who rediscovered it in the mid 1800s, stated;

“One of these temples—a rival to that of Solomon, and erected by some ancient Michelangelo—might take an honorable place beside our most beautiful buildings. It is grander than anything left to us by Greece or Rome, and presents a sad contrast to the state of barbarism in which the nation is now plunged.”

Angkor Wat though, is just one of dozens of temples, each with their own character. Ta Phrom more than any other has been reclaimed by nature over the years, giant silk-cotton trees growing through and on top of the temples, destroying some, but seemingly holding together others.

Prasat Bayon’s feature is altogether more disconcerting, with giant stone-carved faces atop a structure adorned in detailed reliefs. In the surroundings of frequent heavy rain and a jungle backdrop, the smiling faces appear ghostly and imposing.