This is what I found at Ak Yum, the only ruin I visited, giving myself an excuse to come back. On the way there, I went through a village on a dirt road, and a couple markets, just 10 km outside Siem Reap, and I felt like I was actually in Cambodia, not in some weird tourist zone. It looked just like the markets that are at the gates to all the better known temples, but instead of selling carved elephants and T-shirts that say, “Same Same,” they were selling pots and pans, meat, fruit, and other things a person might need in day-to-day life. And there were no white people.
Seeing Ak Yum itself was very peaceful. Butterflies and hummingbirds zipped around, feeding on morning glories, and there were fresh cattle tracks in the mud path around the temple. It was completely overgrown, with this a picture of the exterior wall that first meets you when approach it from the road.
For processing the photo, I did an HDR image in HDR Pro through Photoshop from 5 exposures to capture both the bright sun on the leaves and the dark shadows in the temple wall. After making it look pretty terrible on my first attempt, I ran an automated Saturation preset, which got me 90% of the way there, then I fiddled with the saturation to tone it down just a bit, and adjusted the levels to get a true black. A little subtle vignetting to darken the corners, and it’s good to go.