Time patrol Angkor

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“Morning Captain. All time travel stations at the ready Sir. Orders for today?”

“Morning Scotty, morning everyone. Temples of Angkor, Cambodia. 19th and 20th century. Ready to jump?”

“Ready, Sir.”

“Jump then.”

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1866. A Hipster gathering at Angkor-Vat. Far left, Navy Lieutenant-Commander Doudart de Lagrée, commands an expedition to find a route to China, sailing up the Mékong. Previous expeditions had re-discovered the ruins of Angkor, but Doudart is the first to bring a photo camera. He dies, possibly of tropical illness in 1868 at the age of 45 in the south of China. Francis Garnier, far right, takes over the expedition. The Mekong is not fit for navigation in the North. The route to China eludes the French again. Garnier stays in Asia and is killed in 1873 by the Black flags pirates in Hanoï.


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2018. A staircase at Angkor-Thom. Maybe Doudart and Garnier sat there for their photo? The Naga God lies between the two lions. Jump!

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1870. Despite the recent invention of photography, engraving was still considered more “chic”. The first massive distribution of Angkor Vat images was in 1870 in “Le magasin pittoresque”, a popular magazine of the time. Sketch by Lancelot, based on a photograph. “Jump!”

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2018. Angkor-Vat at sunrise. Watch carefully my fellow travelers. Your Captain never, ever wakes up before dawn. Unhealthy. Angkor-Vat was built by King Suryavarman II (1113-1150) at the height of the Khmer empire, when Cambodia ruled over practically all Indochina form Siam to Vietnam. (Jump!!)

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1903. West gate of Angkor Vat. (Atlas colonial) “Jump!”

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2018. West gate.

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1930. Outer enclosure.

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2018. The towers mark the strong Indian influence all over Indochina. Not just religiously, but also architecturally. Jump. Again.

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1930. Royal Cambodian dancer. (La France lointaine)

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2018. There are close to 1500 divine Apsaras or dancers in the temples of Angkor. Many of those bas-reliefs were pilfered after the Khmer Rouge defeat. The above (12th century approx.) may be a reproduction or a restauration. (Dancin’ in the street) Jump!

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1930. Dancer in front of a gallery.

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C. 12th century. All the movements of hands, head, body and feet were very finely coined. Influenced by dances from India. I’m pleased to say that those traditions are still very much alive. One can only imagine the sumptuous costumes, hairdo and jewelry and the dancing accompanied by Khmer music.

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1930. A young Buddhist monk at Angkor Vat. Didn’t see any monk there this past January. Scared off by the tourists? Jump!

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2108. Apart for aesthetic value I haven’t understood the role of the stone columns. (Another Indian influence there).

“Scotty. is the date right? 2108? Jump to Angkor Thom, please.”

“No Tuk-tuk, Captain? Ok. Didn’t think so. Jump!”

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1930. Angkor-Thom. Alley of the giants and Victory gate. (Right of the tree). (Juuuump!)

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2018. The causeway that leads to Angkor-Thom. Much restauration. To the left: the Devas. The Devas were minor gods. Deva is a Sanskrit word meaning God. The word Deva gave us Dieu, Dios and Divine. The Demons are on the right. Both cohortes hold the Serpent God, Naga. Full story in a further installment. Don’t jump, Scotty.

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Devas at Angkor Thom. 2018. Jump!

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1905. One of the Bayon temple towers. I have read two interpretations. One says the faces are Buddha’s. Four faces in each tower, each facing a cardinal point. The other interpretation, which I favour, is that those are the four faces of Brahma, a creator God, equal to Vishnu and Shiva, and first mentioned in an Upanishad around 1000 BC. There are 216 faces of Brahma/Buddha in the Bayon. Not quite 256 or it would be a cosmic micro-processor. Jump!

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2018. The gate of victory. The entrance to Angkor-Thom. (To be continued…)

Om mani padme om.





69 thoughts on “Time patrol Angkor

  1. Can’t jump anymore, Captain ! Not used to, especially the 2108 jump ! Looks like a good place to have a nap ! Many thanks, Captain. See you in a while … and don’t forget me for the next time jump !

  2. To bad we couldn’t have kept these buildings at the original beauty. It stuns me that so far in the past they could build such ornate wonderful structures, but today we build huge expensive rectangles with smooth unadorned sides which we call skyscrapers and think we are so smart and enlightened. I miss style in building. Hugs

    • You make a very good point. Angkor was built between the 9th and 12th century. And though they did have technical limitations (No keystone for instance) their work is amazing. I felt in another world as I looked the Brahma/Buddha heads in Angkor-Thom. Pure beauty. (How’s the recovery?)

    • Dankie Dina. That was fast. Just posted it around two this afternoon. Glad you liked it.
      (Personally I like the contrasts and similarities of the old and new photos)
      Tot ziens

  3. Brian, I had a fabulous trip, thank you. The photos are gorgeous, and the temples are amazing. The 1930 photo with the dancer in front of a gallery, is stunning, really beautiful. I look at the temples and wonder what they were like inside. Enjoy the rest of your week. ~ Mia

    • Glad you enjoyed the trip Mia. I too wonder what was inside? Paintings faded away (as the ones still in the Royal palace in Bangkok) ? Satues and shrines to worship? There are still some. Most of the place where more temples, places of worship than (royal?) dwellings.
      The same happens here with the maya/aztec temples. Dwellings were generally outside the buildings. And wooden houses most likely.
      Take care.

      • Perhaps that’s smart to have the dwellings outside of the temples. I look at some of those temples, and they are beautiful, although the safety seems questionable, especially when you see large pieces of rubble on the ground that was once part of the temple. Take care too!

      • Yeah it would be exciting if they could recreate the temples and the insides with either magic or computer tech so we could have a proper nose.

  4. Rest assured, I feel agile. A lot of jumping to and fro between the old and the present which kept the mind engaged. I did not know that the word ‘divine’ was derived from ‘deva’. As fascinating as that massive face of Brahma.

    • Hi ma’amji. For some strange reason your comment had gone to spam. Along with another friend. Weird.
      A lot of European words come from or are related to Sanskrit. (The famous theory of the Indo-Europeans). Papa sounds a lot like baba, and so forth. Now is “Deva” really the ancestor of “divine”? Not 100% sure but I know enough about languages to suppose so. Another example: the German Kaiser (emperor Wilhelm) or the Russian Czar are both deformation of Caesar, aka Julius Cesar. 😉

      • That is okay. The spam folder is a regular ol’ friend with a keen eye.
        I had read about the theory as a child but to hear of it in terms of actual examples gives it further vindication. Thank you, for I enjoyed this mini-lesson. Languages and phonetics, as well their evolution, are utterly fascinating.

      • Totally. Neighbouring languages share so much under a different guise. Urdu and Hindi. French and Italian. All the germanic languages. (I am still baffled by Salvic languages. Not much to find one’s way around) 🙂
        Bon week-end my friend

      • They are. Though I’m sure digging a bit one would find bits and pieces to cling to. I always thought babies invented language: ba and ma are the first sounds and mean father and mother just about anywhere. So there was a baby who started to speak and taught the adults the language…

  5. Greatness, that’s the word.
    I fully agree with Scottie on modern architecture being a lousy POS compared to what ancient people were capable to build back then and in such rich detail.
    How many slaves or common people may have died during the building of those structures – that’s the other face of the coin. Because coin was, is and will always be the keyword. Unfortunately.

    Wonderful trip, lucky you to have been there not only once in your life. Merci beaucoup, cher ami! 😉

    • The wealth of detail was overwhelming. 1500 dancers (apsaras) on the walls. Each unique. Yes, many may have died. I don’t know. Same goes for the pyramids. Maybe not Notre-Dame.
      De rien mon ami.

  6. I adore this post! The linkage between past and present is a whole new take on the place for me. The engravings, vintage photos of the place and the dancers, and your images allow me to see it yet again with a new set of eyes. I had the pleasure of visiting Siem Reap in July 2017 and again in October of 2017, but full-on travel has kept me from writing much about it. You’ve inspired me!

  7. You’ve brought me back to a place that blew my mind so many years ago ~ and with this post, the photos and your words, it happens again. Everything about the designs and architecture is beyond comprehension. Stunning. Great, great post. Thank you.

  8. Fascinating post! Those time travelling hipsters had a traumatic time of it. Very brave men.

    I always thought that photos were not used in printed publications earlier, due to issues with turning them into offset printing plates. Interesting to know that aesthetics was the cause.

    • Yes, they were brave men. Fearless. Now of course, they are called, colonialists, invaders, what have you. In reality, they were mostly in for the adventure. And many lost their lives.
      Aesthetics is probably a – wild – theory of mine. I don’t know whether they used offset in the 19th century, but the printing of a delicate engraving was probably no easier than printing a photograph. I think it has more to do with custom. Just as rich people kept on buying hand-copied – expensive – Bibles for a while after Gutenberg started printing mass Bibles. 🙂

      • Yes, and old habits die hard, as they say. I studied ceramic design at university and there is another example of this process that I can think of. When clay vessels began to be made they were mainly replacing basketry which had been waterproofed in one way or another. Initially ceramic vessels mimicked not only the shape of the baskets but embellishments on the outside of the forms were made to look as much like baskets as possible. I guess one can also see that process in the earliest automobiles that looked like horse drawn carriages.

      • You are absolutely right. On all counts. I have a photo of my grandfather driving one those cars made around 1915. Looks exactly like a carriage w/o horses. 🙂
        (ceramic? How nice. Do you still do it?)

      • Unfortunately not. I travelled a lot after university and it isn’t something that is very portable. I started designing and making greeting cards while I was on the move. It helped to finance my travels and I was able to turn it into a full time publishing business once I was home. My health started to fail, so after 7 years I had to stop. I’m not sad about that, as other things came along . . . 😄

  9. I’m liking the hipster gathering Brian, fashion is just a cycle of life apparently. I really must make a plan to visit Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, they’ve all long been on my list and I’ve not gotten around to it. The gate of victory looks amazing.

  10. Pingback: In search of the lost Buddha | Equinoxio

    • Prego, prego… Angkor is such a magic place. (And I’ve seen a few…) I want to go back there for a few days, away from the crowds. No camera. Just walk, watch, sit, listen to the trees, watch…
      (And maybe I will reach illumination)

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