The ancient ruins of Ek Phnom Temple are quiet most days of the week. Monks peek curiously out of their bare wooden stilt houses at travelers. Dogs sleep in the sun, leaves rustle and families from surrounding villages picnic upon giant blocks of weathered and chiseled sandstone. It is an impressive, but also defiantly local, attraction.
Thought to have been built by the Angkor Empire in the early 11th century during pre-Buddhist times, the original Wat still stands, but barely. It has been semi-demolished by hundreds of years of looters – especially the Khmer Rouge, as legend has it – and also by time’s steady hand.
Eighteen trees surround the Wat, rumored to have sprouted from saplings from the original Bodhi Tree in India (under which the Buddha attained enlightenment).
The temple is now a visually chaotic jumble of gravity-defying, crazily leaning archways, stone blocks and crumbling walls.
Its disrepair seems even starker next to the massive, gleaming new white and gold temple built just 10 years ago, and constructed (for some reason) directly in front of it.
When we motorbiked out to the Wat, it was busier than usual due to a local festival. We were there to film a large traditional wedding re-enactment put on during the festival by the people of the local villages along the Sangker River.
BUT…. the re-enactment didn’t happen. And nobody could explain to us exactly why. We made the most of the day anyway, with Stax in her finest people-watching mode: