Khmer temples from dusk to dawn


Asger Mollerup


     Night-photography is a new passion of mine. In the final stage of compiling a second book about ancient Khmer temples in Thailand, 2017/18, I got the idea of visiting the ancient ruins, which I know so well from several revisits, but now with modern camera technology catch temples framed by the Milky Way, an option not possible with my recently died film camera. The first Milky Way nights in ancient ruins started in the beginning of March 2018 bringing my Sony RX10 M1, Garmin GPS, LED-torch, candles and mosquito repellant.
     Only a small collection of the many hundred sites described in my field-research were considered as potential candidates, all of them in the southern part of NE-Thailand north of the Cambodian border, where light pollution is limited. The first target in 2018 was the 12th century Prasat Kuti Reusi Ban Khok Mueang near Prasat Mueang Tam in Buriram province, a late 12th century Mahayan Buddhist laterite hospital shrine. Stone sculptures of naga-serpents adorning the top walls inspired for framing the night sky. Another target was a nearby but hard to ascend mountaintop temple in the wilderness on mount Plaibat, a Hindu sanctuary. The ruin is among the eldest sanctuaries in this wide irrigated valley, which supported the creation of Prasat Mueang Tam and Prasat Phanom Rung in the later part of the first millennia. Only an eastern sandstone doorframe and parts of a brick tower has been left for us and the archeologists, who during their 2017-18 excavations found engraved sandstone pediments enough for several doorways.


Prasat Kuti Reusi Ban Khok Mueang




The Gate
Prasat Plaibat and the Milky Way.
Saturn and Mars are aligned with Antares, which is brighter than the planets.
EXIF: 2018-03-16 at 04:38. ISO: 3200, 20 seconds, f/2.8




Mountain temple
EXIF: 2018-03-16 at 03:53. ISO: 3200, 20 seconds, f/2.8. Handheld LED.
Prasat Plaibat below the Milky Way, adorned with Saturn and Mars.


EXIF: 2018-03-17 at 03:58. ISO: 3200, 15 seconds, f/2.8. Handheld LED.
Prasat Kuti Ruese Ban Khok Mueang with the low hanging Milky Way rising behind the tower
together with Mars. The light pollution from the village 500 behind blurs the stars at the horizon.
Will be back, but around the new moon in April or later,
when the Milky Way has risen to a higher position.


Early morning sacrifice
EXIF: 2018-03-17 at 05:22. ISO: 3200, 15 seconds, f/2.8. Handheld LED.
The central tower in Prasat Kuti Reusi Ban Khok Mueang illuminated by a candle
and a flashlight. This late 11th century Bayon style hospital shrine is also called arogyasala.
The sick resided outside the walls, the Gods inside, and the celestial deities above.


The Gate to the Horizon
EXIF: 2018-03-16 at 05:36. ISO: 320, 20 seconds, f/2.8. Handheld LED.
The single tower stands on an extinct volcano with a wide view from
Phanom Rung to the Dangrek Mountains on the Cambodian border.
The Mueang Tam cultural landscape is visible to the east. The orientation of the
temple complex and its huge ancient reservoir is similar to the orientation Prasat Plai Bat.




Asger Mollerup

28 January 2019