Step Inside Ta Nei Temple in Angkor
Having just been to the impressive tree root temple of Ta Prohm, I wandered out of the complex with a big grin on my face because finally, after waiting for many years, I had seen the original “Tomb Raider” temple!
Our dutiful tuk-tuk driver, waiting for us in the shade of the enormous trees, could see how excited we were and asked if we wanted to go to a hidden temple deep in the jungle called Ta Nei, a smaller version of Ta Prohm. Our eyes lit up, and we jumped aboard our tuk-tuk to be whisked away to a temple we didn’t even know existed.
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Ta Nei Temple Secrets Unlocked
Of course, it isn’t a completely ‘unknown’ temple and isn’t too far from Ta Prohm, but as the only access is via a dirt track, only bikes and tuk-tuks can reach this hidden gem in the Angkor jungle. And it turns out that only a few tuk-tuk drivers know the whereabouts of Ta Nei, so we had struck gold with our driver.
In the mid to late 12th century, this beautiful jungle temple was built by King Jayavarman VII and was dedicated to Buddha. He was responsible for the design and construction of most of the temple complexes in Angkor. In the 13th century, three small entrance buildings (gopuras) were added to the temple by King Indravarman II.
In the 16th century, Ta Nei and the other temples in the area were deserted. The reason why is still a puzzle to historians.
Two hundred years later, French explorers rediscovered the temple and cleared the surrounding jungle to gain proper access to this hidden gem.
Wander Around Ta Nei Temple
Time spent in Ta Nei – 15 minutes
As we whizzed along a dirt track deeper and deeper into the jungle, we did consider that maybe we were being kidnapped. Why had we so eagerly agreed to be taken into the wilderness!
We then dismissed these ridiculous ideas because, in reality, what would our driver do with a six-foot-tall 18-year-old and his 50-year-old mum!
Of course, we arrived intact at Ta Nei, and it was indeed a temple hidden in the thick jungle foliage. We couldn’t have asked for a more authentic experience in Cambodia. And once again, because we were visiting in the late afternoon, we were here alone.
Ta Nei is very raw and untouched, with giant boulders and tree roots to navigate, which adds to its intrigue.
The state of decay throughout the temple, with the trees growing through it, is incredible, and you can imagine how some of the other more prominent and more famous Siem Reap temples must have looked when they were first discovered.
Is Ta Nei Worth Visiting?
Ta Nei is a smaller version of Ta Prohm and is definitely off the beaten track, so well worth visiting. It is very atmospheric and shrouded in lush vegetation. This shades the site from sunshine but also holds in the heat, so bring plenty of water with you.
I felt that Ta Nei was the perfect place for a spot of peaceful contemplation, and as twilight descended, we could hear the distant calls of gibbons in the jungle treetops.
It was a magical way to end our second day in the Angkor Archaeological Park; just us, our tuk-tuk driver, the gibbons and a hidden temple in the Cambodian jungle. However, if you prefer an organised 2-day tour of Angkor Archaeological Park that includes Ta Nei you can book online before you arrive.
Where To Next?
From Ta Nei Temple, we headed back to our hotel in Siem Reap with a quick stop at the Terrace of the Elephants, named after the carvings of elephants on its facade. This fascinating spot was where Jayavarman VII would watch public ceremonies, including when his army returned from battles.
Our tuk-tuk driver was keen to stop here and show us the terrace, and I’m glad he did as I caught an excellent photo of young monks taking pictures of each other on their iPhones. I guess even they need a connection to the outside world!
Follow me on my Cambodian Temple Journey to discover
Preah Khan Temple and Angkor Wat
and find out about my favourite temple in Angkor Thom
Read More Here About My 4-Day Siem Reap Travel Itinerary
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