Photograph by Eric Scott

  • where:

    Siem Reap, Cambodia

  • what:

    Ruins, Temples, History

  • why:

    Past Great Civilization

  • Geotag Icon Show on map

Coming form a western culture, the realities of traveling in South East Asia is a sounding for the compassion you have as well as the degradation you can bear whiteness to. After passing through customs at Angkor International Airport you immediately get a glimpse of the ignominy in which the descendants of the once great Khmer Empire live. Gaunt men with beautifully symmetrical faces and large eyes hustle every weary traveler as they exit the airport with an unsettling frantic desperation.

The road from the airport is lined with irrigation canals in which children play and find respite from the malevolent heat. Hotels line the main street of Siem Reap, the nearest city to the ruins of Angkor and Bayon. Billboards provide warnings of the consequences for those seeking out child prostitution. Walking around Siem Reap, you observer almost every social stratum with little to no boundaries in between to denote wealth, from the most extreme poverty. Some neighborhoods house little communities of expatriates seeking refuge from the inequities of the first world, and transplanting those same inequities into the third where they can occupy a higher position in the food chain.

Photograph by Eric ScottThe children of South East Asia smile on a grand scale, but unlike in some other neighboring countries the joyous smile on the Cambodian adults seemed more like a mask. They still were able to smile, but the mouth is less supple and the eyes have grown dull and hard, from years of poverty, torment, and exploitation. We were solicited with services and trinkets everywhere we went, the only defense against it is to temporarily turn your self into some sort of blind monster, especially when you see the need in the peoples eyes. To think that a few hundred years before these peoples ancestors new the prosperity of a thriving civilization was very sobering.

Photograph by Eric ScottWe only spent one day viewing the nearby temples, all of which were magnificent monuments to the human will and to human ignorance. The Khmer empire, once the largest in South East Asia, ruled over parts of modern-day Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam. Under the reign of Suryavarman II, Angkor Wat was built in a period of thirty-seven years. Then under the rule of Jayavarman VII: Bayon, Ta Prohm, Banteay Kdei and Neak Pean, as well as the reservoir of Srah Srang, were built. The complete history of the region is beyond the scope of this article, but the downfall of this great empire can serve as a lesson to our current generation. In addition to military conflicts and failures, political unrest, and internal upheavals, one of the primary causes of the nations dissemination came from an ecological and infrastructural collapse. The extensive system of canals the Khmer people had developed for travel, trade, and irrigation became overburdened by an ever-growing population. In addition more trees had to be cleared to farm rice for the growing population, which led to extensive run-off draining into the canal system and further damaging their infrastructure. Sound familiar.

Photograph by Eric Scott

Angkor Wat

Photograph by Eric Scott

Angkor Wat

Photograph by Eric Scott

Angkor Wat

Photograph by Eric Scott

Angkor Wat

Photograph by Eric Scott

Bayon

Photograph by Eric Scott

Bayon

Photograph by Eric Scott

Bayon

Photograph by Eric Scott

Bayon

Photograph by Eric Scott

Bayon

Photograph by Eric Scott

Bayon

Photograph by Eric Scott

Bayon

Photograph by Eric Scott

Bayon

Photograph by Eric Scott

Ta Prohm

Photograph by Eric Scott

Ta Prohm

Photograph by Eric Scott

Ta Prohm