Allan is a travel and food writer sharing boutique travel, design hotels and gastro-tourism in Asia.
Photo Story: Phanom Rung Festival
This photo was taken at the ancient ruins of Phanomrung Historical Park, found around 360 kilometres northeast of Bangkok, in the province of Buriram in Thailand.
The site itself makes up part of a 225-kilometre long Ancient Khmer Highway, crossing the borders of neighbouring Cambodia, and including the revered temples of Angkor Wat.
At the time, a festival was taking place, known as the Phanom Rung Festival, which celebrates the ancient Khmer history of the site, and the rare annual phenomenon when the morning sunrise aligns with the fifteen doorways of the temple’s upper sanctuary.
Where one of the highlights of these celebrations is undoubtedly the parade showcasing the ancient costume and cultures of the Khmer folk, as it climbs the stairway of “Naga‟ bridges guarded by serpent heads, on their ascent to the upper sanctuary of the ruins.
On the day it was extremely hot, close to 40’c, and the tarmac of the entrance car park was almost liquid from heavy traffic and the unrelenting heats. It was a bit like driving through the sticky mud at the time.
So we hid beneath the shelters of stalls and umbrellas of the surrounding ancient market while waiting for the main parade to begin. As the procession otherwise takes place away from the shade, and the midday sun was now beating down from above.
But as the crowds began to take place along the front lines of the barrier, which was literally a piece of string, I was forced out to find an unobstructed space to watch and photograph the parade.
Only I had forgotten any sunscreen. So I had to protect myself by stuffing a free Air Asia brochure down the back neck of my t-shirt and holding another over my head, for around 30 minutes.
Finally, the parade begins, and the procession arrives to then follow the ancient walkway, as music rumbles through loudspeakers.
However, it was all very tricky to see, and even trickier to photograph, where the ancient walkways were lined with bulky stone pillars. As I guess the architects of the Khmer days didn’t really consider photography when building these now ancient ruins.
So, being sneaky, my wife Fanfan lies on the ground, to stretch her body out while keeping her feet behind the line. As, technically, her feet were behind the line as she was told.
And the security guys were reluctant to hassle us, because of my big camera and foreign skin, as we are often mistaken as international media in these far-flung parts of Thailand.
So we may have been fortunate to get some of the best photos of the event.
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Phanom Rung faces east, and four times a year the sun can be seen through all 15 sanctuary doorways.
The correct solar alignment happens during sunrise from 3 to 5 April and 8 to 10 September and sunset from 5 to 7 March and 5 to 7 October (some years are one day earlier).
The park extends its hours during these events, and locals celebrate the Phanom Rung Festival around the April alignment with ancient Brahman ceremonies and modern sound-and-light shows.
Phanom Rung Historic Park / Prasat Hin Phanom Rung / Phanom Rung Stone Castle is a Hindu Khmer temple complex set on the rim of an extinct volcano at 402 metres elevation, in Buriram Province in the Isan region of Thailand.
It was built of sandstone and laterite in the 10th to 13th centuries.
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