fallen cities


The first book I read by Italo Calvino was Invisible Cities. Although I have read the book once or twice again, like the cities he describes, I have no distinct memory of the book...

Except that I enjoyed it at the moment of reading - its repetitions and refrains, its seeming economy with words but the surfeit of association, its glut of allusions and pretenses, those conversations between Kublai Khan and Marco Polo that go everywhere and nowhere.

Ruins have a similar effect.


After a while, they all seem pretty alike. Chunks of stone. Moss. Invasive trees. Broken statues. Damp corners. And they give the same testimony. Fallen men. Failed gods.

But we continue to want to visit them. We think there is something elusive and mysterious about their destruction, dream up stories and myths to match their human histories. We watch the missing roofs and walls, tread on their eroded floors, only to imagine the luxury of their architecture. We scale, tunnel and circle their spaces, tracing some map.

descent ascent

A year or so ago I was in Cambodia for a conference and got a bonus trip to the angkor wat, where I took these photos with the trusty old nikon. I enjoyed wandering around the ruins, but the best part for me was still watching the groups of Japanese tourists investigate their environment. J and I have been talking about taking a short break in Cambodia next month - and I think we might :>



monk said…
i happened to see these photos on flickr just after you originally uploaded them. i was frantically digging for visual material at the time for a post i was ripping together in some haste.

they blew me away. i was really close to grabbing them for myself before whatever shred of "photo-etiquette" i possess stilled my mouse.

they're incredible. they're even more incredible now that i read the story behind them -- i had looked over them very quickly and believed them to be vintage.

amazing stuff.
Tym said…
Yes, yes, Cambodia! I also want!
sigh... i've been wanting to go there for the *longest* time.
ampulets said…
I really like these pics. I recalled when we first saw it afte Y's Cambodia's trip. I merely think that they looked interesting. But now looking at them, I have a different feeling altogether - the quietness of the b/w, contrasting with the touristy activities. The peopple look a bunch of oldies that are/ willing be abducted by aliens. - TOHA
tscd said…
I've always wanted to visit Angkor Wat. Is it as fantastic and mysterious as all the pictures?
ampulets said…
kquiih40calibernap - thanks! you can still use them on your post, if you don't mind recycling images.

TOHA - i confess, i increased the contrast on photoshop for the 1st pic and the one with the tourists facing sideways after i scanned in the prints. the prints looked very washed out look compared to the negative scan. (yah, the tourists are weird huh. i don't know why they posed that way at all. maybe they are calling out for some alien ship to land)

tcsd, ru, tym - it's not as mysterious, nothing like those scenes from "In the Mood for Love". It's crawling with tourists! i heard the more far-out ruins and temples are prettier. i was there for work, so i didn't know how much the trip cost. but i heard cambodia's pretty expensive to visit. So start saving!
ampulets said…
Y, they posed like that because someone else is taking their photo. They are not posing for me mah. But I like their creativity. Usually group shots are taken as a whole group stand closely to each other. -TOHA
Anonymous said…
it might be expensive coz you need a guide+driver for angkor tour (1 full day, from breakfast to sunset @ grand angkor). plus domestic flight + hotel. If just bumming ard in phnom penh, then quite cheap, even the funky italian restaurants are extremely affordable.

Tym said…
Expensive? I thought it'd be highly affordable, even factoring in a guide/driver and so on.
shadow said…
Nice pix!

Siem Reap's great. Think it might be much cheaper now than 3-4 years ago. For one, Jetstar Asia now flies there. Once there you can grab a moto driver for about US$10 a whole day (prob less? I didn't really want to bargain). Accomodation is also about US$10 for hot water, air-con and a clean room. All you need after a sweaty day at the temples. Of course if you want the Raffles Grand Hotel d'Angkor, it'll cost.

If you guys need guide books to the temples, can arrange to pass them to you. ;-)

Phnom Penh also has really really good French food (they were a colony after all). Best filet mignon ever was at a little cafe by the Mekong (not pretty).

Oh yeah. If you take the boat between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, try not to sit too far in. It's got a habit of sinking so sit where you can swim out easily.
tscd said…
Why is Cambodia expensive to visit? Is it a tourist trap?
ampulets said…
i think it's because the prices are in USD? Or maybe it's just that the folks I've spoken to so far are likely to have stayed at the Raffles Grand Hotel ;P

shadow - thanks for the tips!
Anonymous said…
i knew a friend who rode on his honda motorbike with angkor as his destination.
it was really about the journey along with the different villages and peoples leading to angkor, i remember him saying about helps they were given and assitance they rendered in return. and of course some of the pictures he had taken.

i guess the experience of his visit to Angkor must be quite an arriving... besides he commented a sentence on the day of their return,(which i have remembered eversince) 'the bigest U-Turn of my life'.

phew! what a trip!

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