Monday, March 2, 2009

Return to Banteay Ampil

Nature and the man-made temple are vying for supremacy at Prasat Banteay Ampil
In January 2007 I visited Prasat Banteay Ampil for the first time. Here's what I wrote at the time about that visit: Another fifteen minute walk, along a flooded path and across rice fields near the village of Andong Pei, we arrived at the temple. And what an excellent find it was. Amongst the trees and sounds of cicadas, and with the 5pm golden light shining on it, the temple looked at its best. Inside a large laterite wall with sandstone gopuras, are two libraries and one substantial central tower with a porch, open to the east and west and housing some attractive carvings and lintels. It was tricky as the path through the temple is by picking your way around the rubble underfoot but its definitely a temple worth more time than we could allow. With the light fading fast we headed back to Heng and the 4WD, leaving us no time for a look at another ruin nearby, Prasat Lich. Prasat Banteay Ampil is about 8 kms from the main road to Damdek, but local help is essential to locate it.
One of the gopuras with a false door along the outside laterite wall of the temple
A few weeks ago I had the chance to return to Prasat Banteay Ampil with Rieng, this time on a moto as part of a nine-hour trip that also included visits to Phnom Bok and Chau Srei Vibol. More on all of those temples in due course. On my first look at Banteay Ampil I was rather taken with it. On my second visit it didn't seem as good as I'd first thought. It's a large site with some substantial sandstone buildings but the place is in a ruined state fighting for survival against the vegetation, lots of the carvings have been stolen or disfigured and it's not easy to find. Pending a full report from our day-long trip, here's a few photos of Prasat Banteay Ampil to give you a flavour of this remote temple site located in the wilderness on route to Beng Mealea. I asked the Apsara guard on duty (he arrived after us because he heard the engine of our moto) about other visitors and he said he recalled a helicopter visit a few months earlier - I later found out Amansara occasionally fly their high-class tourists out here for a picnic - but that was about it for the past year!
The main sanctuary has an unwelcome visitor dislodging its stonework
Trees have taken root on the top of some of the temple's buildings



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