At one point, Angkor, the capital city of the Khmer Empire (possibly the biggest of the day), housed over a million people.
Anglor Wat, the city’s famous temple was built in 1100s in just 37 years and used more stone than the Egyptian pyramids, combined.
It is estimated that 3000 elephants and 500,000 people worked on it. Supposidely the people were promised entrance into the Hindu version of Heaven – which snarkily seems like a good way to get people to volunteer into a form of slavery.
Eventually the city was abandoned and the forest went all “Life After People” on the structure.
When French explorers came a-looking (right before this area was clamied by France), one of them – Henri Mouhot declared (in 1860), that Angkor Wat was “erected by some Michaelangelo…and is grander than anything left to us by Greece or Rome”
Now, there is a bit of dark history to Cambodia (more on that later) that kept the tourists away for most of the second half of the 20th century – but despite all these facts, all these amazing things (3000 elephants!) – the first thing any tour guide will tell you is that all the tourists are here because of Angelina Jolie.
Yup, that’s right it was really Angelina Jolie that turned it into an photographer’s icon, and later Instagram “must have.”
If you take a tour, the first third of it is all about where “Tomb Raider was filmed,” and the photo stops are all from scenes in the movie (full disclosure, I don’t remember the movie) – which happen to be places where tree roots have decided that in the game of “Rock, Paper, Scissors” they would hold the trump card and just defeat everything.
Whispers of “Angelina” flow throughout that first stop, more loudly than any fact or legend – and I guess that’s because (and this is very unresearched), Angelina, by filming a movie here and adopting a Cambodian son, brought the tourists back and brought money in – here, in this place of temples, she is someone to be worshipped.