Images of Cambodia: Stone Storybooks of Ancient Angkor

In the temples of Angkor, the walls tell stories: Here there be tales of enemies routed, paisley dances of victory, and demonic faces foretelling doom. Or something like that.

Jayavarman II insists on playing Danny in a community production of “Grease.”

The Bodhisattva of Compassion maneuvers through a kindergarten class with a heavy beverage tray.

A dragon-drawn chariot crushes the heads of small, unfortunate men.

A totally fierce warrior performs a celebratory dance upon a field of paisley.

Ancient Khmers play shoulder wars in a lush curlicue jungle.

The side with the elephant always wins.

My above interpretations of the history, lore, and architecture of ancient Angkor stem from a thorough reading of the Lonely Planet Guide to Angkor Wat, which I completed while riding the bus to Siem Reap, between my viewings of the movies Titanic and Men in Black 3. I hope you learned something!

For more information about what these bas-reliefs reveal about the Angkor empire’s ups and downs, you’ll have to check with actual scholars. All I can offer you from here on out are more over-processed iPhone photos with cheeky captions.

See also the requisite Angkor Wat sunset pic.

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