Cambodia is the closest you can get, today, to your own real life Indiana Jones movie. There, the temples of Angkor seem built into the fabric of the forest itself, bats flap their leathery wings in the vaults, and incense drifts down the empty colonnades.
The god-kings of Angkor were at the height of their powers from the 9th century until the 15th century.
In that time, they built the largest preindustrial city in the world in Cambodia: larger than Rome, larger than Alexandria, larger by far than London or Paris at the time.
Wealth was poured into ever more spectacular temples, replete with intricate carvings and statues.
In the fifteenth century, for reasons which still puzzle scholars today, the gigantic complex was left almost entirely abandoned – lost to the jungle.
Ta Prohm Temple, Cambodia (via Wikimedia)
Early Western visitors, glimpsing the astonishing structures looming up amidst the trees, were left almost speechless.
For António da Madalena, Angkor was “of such extraordinary construction that it is not possible to describe it with a pen, particularly since it is like no other building in the world.”
Since the 19h century, a slow process of restoration has been taking place. While tourists flock to Angkor today, much of the site remains to be discovered, and the trees loom on all sides, ready to swallow the city up again.