Angkor, the Iconic Image

Temple door under the roots of a tree

This is one of perhaps three iconic images of Angkor, the other two being the Buddha face subsumed by roots, and Angkor Wat from the west - preferably in the light of the setting sun. I'll spare you the other two, if only because I never found the face, and I wasn't enthusiastic enough about Angkor Wat to get a really good shot of it. Just ask anyone who's been to Angkor - they can show you at least one of the three.

This temple is Ta Prohm, which was used in the shooting of one of the "Tomb Raider" movies. The maintainers of Angkor play a bit of a game here, trying to balance the force of nature with tourist appeal and the destruction caused by the trees. The trees grew in the first place because the grounds went uncleared for centuries, and now the roots have so invaded the stone that, in some cases, it would be more destructive to remove the tree than leave it. And besides, people like pictures like this. So they remove most of the brush and trees, and let us feel as if we're Indiana Jones discovering a temple lost in the jungle. Mind you, the feeling isn't all that strong with dozens of people with cameras around you, all taking the same shot. But the grandeur of both the temple and the trees remains, and it's pretty damn awe-inspiring.