The never-ending adventures of a travel writer in Vietnam, Cambodia, New Zealand and throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Adventures of Adam Bray & The Lost City of Ratanakiri

Last year my guide and I discovered a lost temple city in the jungles of Ratanakiri, Cambodia. The city, constructed with an earthen wall and a tall, central temple mound, was built using baked red bricks on a foundation of laterite slabs. As is customary for Cham cities and temples, it was situated on a rise overlooking a river; the Ton Le San, which extends from Kontum, Vietnam, to the Mekong River.

I returned this month to Ratanakiri, in northeastern Cambodia, to relocate the temple on my own. Using only a single GPS point, I traveled alone several hours north of the town of Ban Lung, driving through old logging and poaching trails, then hiked through the jungle, and at last came upon the city once again.

Overtaken by the jungle, this ancient ruined city is covered by trees and vines, Most of the structures have eroded leaving only the earthen walls, temple mound, moat and piles of bricks and stone slabs. Undoubtedly there are valuable artifacts buried underneath the city as well.


A moat around the city connects to a jungle stream which leads to the Ton Le San. The Cham were renowned for their sailing abilities, as well as their ability to conduct warfare on the water.


From the bottom of the earthen rampart looking up. The wall is about 5-6 meters tall here and 4 meters wide.


A tiny jungle gecko. This variety hides under debris on the forest floor, lacking the large toe-pads of common house geckos.


Tree bark freshly scratched by an animal. Perhaps a bear?


Giant spiders are everywhere. It's impossible not to stumble into a web or two or three. This small specimen is a male. Females are many times larger. More terrifying are the ants however. Black armies are everywhere. Step on the ground about a colony and thousands boil out of the ground. They shake in unison, apparently as a warning, which causes the ground to vibrate and the loose soil on top to rattle.


Three red bricks, worn by centuries of worms eating through them.


This slab has a post hole on either side. There are several of these slabs with postholes in identical positions, sitting together. Apparently there was a building here held up by wooden posts.


A reservoir inside the city walls.

Click here to see my post on the city from last year. Included are more photos of the ruins themselves, including a section of brick wall. Or, view all of my archaeological adventures here. Then check out my story for CNN on how to find Cham temple ruins yourself.

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