Lost temples and gleaming Buddhas - January 2017
Ta Prohm in the heart of the Cambodian jungle
Wat Arun, Temple of the Dawn, in Bangkok
Colourful Royal Palace temple complex, Bangkok
Jo and I were thrilled to take a break in Thailand and Cambodia, neither of which we had visited before.
The temples particularly caught our imagination. Those of Wat Arun, Wat Pho and the Royal Palace temples of Bangkok were some of the most beautiful we've seen, with their flying Garudas, coiled Nagas, glittering domes and towering pinnacles. The colours were vivid, the Buddhas shining gold and amazing to hear the orange-clad monks chanting.
The ancient abandoned temples we saw in Cambodia were equally captivating in a different way. Angkor Wat, possibly the largest temple precinct in the world, originally Hindu then Buddhist, was otherworldly and totally awe inspiring. We marvelled at its massive stone turrets, long walkways lined with bas relief depictions of gods and myths, and the powerful vibe of its inner sanctum.
Further into the jungle was another temple, Ta Prohm, where branches, trunks and roots of trees wind their way around the buildings... Nature taking over to create the most extraordinary atmosphere. There you could feel the excitement early explorers must have felt when discovering these places, deep in the jungle. We could almost hear spirits of the past echoing through dark gaping doorways between the tendrils. From another temple, Bayon, huge Buddha faces carved into the stone looked down at you from a great height. Following a climb was a labyrinthine path through these awe inspiring countenances.
In contrast to the temples, via car, boat and train we visited the Bridge over the River Kwai in Thailand. It was incredibly sobering and moving to think of so many lives needlessly lost in World War II building the Burma Railway or what is now known as the Death Railway. In Cambodia we encountered two places dedicated to those who tragically died under Pol Pot's rule in the 1970s.
The memory is still strongly haunts the people today. One man talked of how the genocide had claimed members of his family. It happened to be the day the country was celebrating independence from that regime, as fireworks exploded their colours across the night sky.
The wonders of both countries deserve to be seen, and the people we met were very open and friendly. The visit has burned itself into my memory. I was constantly taking out my musical notebook with so much inspiration and I've already revisited some of these places in my dreams.
Many thanks to Thames Travel and all the incredibly kind and helpful Thai and Cambodian people who were our guides.
Wat Pho, Bangkok
Monks chanting in Wat Pho, Bangkok
Steve with the giant golden reclining Buddha, Wat Pho
Mystical Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Steve and Jo at Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Steve beside the bridge over the River Kwai
Extraordinary face of the Buddha, ancient Bayon temple, Cambodia