Angkor is a region in Cambodia that served as the seat of power of the Khmer empire from the 9th to the 15th century. Spread over almost 200 square kilometres is a collection of temples that form one of the greatest collections of Hindu and Buddhist architecture in the world. The principal temple of Angkor, Angkor Wat, was built in the 12th century and is considered to be the largest single religious monument ever built.
Largely reclaimed by the surrounding jungle after it was abandoned in the 15th century, it wasn’t until the 19th century that archaeologists began to uncover many of Angkor’s magnificent temples, although some, like Angkor Wat, remained in use. Some temples to this day are still entwined with the giant trees that have grown to become part of their very structure.
Over the last decade, the volume of tourists visiting Angkor has increased exponentially. With a million visitors annually, the character of the site is changing. The centrepieces of Angkor – Angkor Wat, the Bayon, Angkor Thom – are crowded with tourists descending from buses from dawn until dusk, and the local town, Siem Reap, is being transformed and redeveloped by the economic energy the tourists bring. Yet despite this inundation, there remains an incomparable beauty and elegance in the temples of Angkor.
© Ben Johnson