“Looks like Jurassic Park.”
That’s my go-to phrase for describing anything reclaimed by nature.
Krol Romeas shares one other key similarity with Jurassic Park, though—it used to hold very large animals.
Yes, it’s true…Khmer warriors of old rode into battle mounted on the backs of domesticated velociraptors.
There’s even a carving at nearby Ta Prohm that seems to depict a dinosaur (sort of).
If only…how might history have been different if the invading Vietnamese were met with dinosaur cavalry instead of an overstretched and weakened Khmer empire?
Anyway, I’m talking about elephants. Krol Romeas is a big ol’ elephant pen.
That probably sounds really god damn boring when the rest of Angkor Wat is an endless expanse of temples. And it is, unless you’re like me.
But the interesting thing about Krol Romeas is that it’s the only surviving non-religious building at the park.
All other structures were created with perishable materials—mostly wood—that don’t stand up so well to the ravages of time. Fortunately for us, elephants don’t give a shit about picket fences. So, the enclosure at Krol Romeas was built with stone.
Yes, this site is barely worth a spot on the map for most visitors to Angkor Wat. There’s nobody here except for a sleepy security guard across the road.
But visiting Krol Romeas is like stepping out of the time machine in Ray Bradbury’s The Sound of Thunder, a short story about a company that uses time travel to hunt big game in the time of dinosaurs.
The characters are warned never to veer from the prescribed path—doing so could disrupt the future in completely unpredictable ways.
Of course, some idiot steps off the trail and crushes a butterfly (hence the “butterfly effect”). When his group returns to the present, life has changed in subtle but meaningful ways—the English language is different, and the opposition’s candidate has won the most recent election.
The pen at Krol Romeas was teeming with butterflies. What if I crushed one, and came back to a life where grilled meat was never invented?
If you have a spare 15-minute block in your busy schedule, take a walk on the wild side and visit Krol Romeas. It’s on the right side of the road north of Angkor Thom, marked by a wooden sign.
A sign that won’t be around in a thousand years when our ancestors are visiting the “Angkor Wat Archaeological Park Archaeological Park,” a stunning recreation of the shops, restaurants and excavated tuk tuks of 21st-century Cambodia!