When we rode into Bakong, the sun was tilting towards the horizon. It had mercilessly baked the Siem Reap countryside all day long and had beat the living daylights out of me.
Dusty and sweaty after a day of riding the Cambodian back roads, the pure historical importance of the monument kept my concentration tack sharp. After all the 10th century Bakong is the first significant temple mountain built during the Khmer Dynasty, Every element found here – the moat surrounding the outer enclosure, the three level square pyramid with correction for perspective, the conical tower summit – are leitmotifs for almost every Khmer temple to be built over the next two hundred years.
Using Nathan’s silhouette formula (WB=Shade + a6, EV= –1), I managed a series of gorgeous shots excitedly walking around the courtyard placing the sun behind the main mountain, the arc, the lions against the saturated sky.
After that, the temptation to escape without leaving the ground level was enormous. Thankfully, I am able to resist it. I climb the gigantic ancient steps that took us up the 5 levels of the pyramid. Each level represents, per Hindu Mythology, the realm of nagas, garudas, rakhasas, yakshas and finally the maharajas. A bellowing lion guards the entrance to each level. Once you surpass them all, you are symbolically at Mount Meru, from where there is no where else (or need) to go.
I lay down my backpack, gulp ice cold water from the canteen and rest the throbbing back against the warm sandstone. A draft of cool breeze find its way to me.