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Must-Visit Ta Prohm: The Tree Root Temple in Cambodia

Step Inside Ta Prohm Temple in Angkor

Ta Prohm is one of the most photographed and most visited temple complexes in Cambodia’s Angkor region, and since watching Tomb Raider starring Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft, Ta Prohm, engulfed by giant strangler fig trees, has been high on my Southeast Asia bucket list.

And on our visit, this magical Cambodian temple did not disappoint. The tree roots really were huge both in height and width, with their great wooden tendrils wrapping themselves around the temple ruins. And the trees, dappled in the afternoon sunlight, shaded the crumbling temple pieces that lay where they had fallen many centuries before.

Ta Prohm is unique in every sense of the word, and somewhere that everyone should visit on a trip to Cambodia.

We arranged to tour Angkor by ourselves using a tuk-tuk as our transport, and it worked out perfectly. Of course, if you want a physical guide to take you around, you can book temple tours online or through your hotel.

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tree root growing from a building

Ta Prohm Temple Secrets Unlocked

The day before we visited Ta Prohm, we had explored Bayon, the smiling face temple, built by the great Khmer ruler, Jayavarman VII. He was also responsible for the concept of Ta Prohm, which he dedicated to his mother.

By the 15th century, after the fall of Khmer rule, the 10,000 inhabitants once living here disappeared and Ta Prohm merged with the jungle. Thick tree roots pushed through walls and walkways dislodging stonework and causing devastating destruction.

Strangler fig trees toppled everything in their pathway, and Ta Prohm become one of the many structures around the world to have been reclaimed by Mother Nature.

Fast forward to 1860, and Ta Prohm, along with other Angkor temples, was re-discovered by Henri Mouhot, a French naturalist and explorer.

He set about clearing debris from the area allowing access to a temple once cut off from the outside world. The rest as they say is history as visitors returned to Cambodia interested in visiting the hidden temples of Angkor.

And, in more recent times, Angkor Archaeological Park has become a UNESCO world heritage site with over two million people a year paying respect to this wonder of the world.

Angie looking through a window of the ruins in Ta Prohm

Wander Around Ta Prohm Temple

Time spent in Ta Prohm – 60 minutes

On entering Ta Prohm, it was quickly evident that this temple was exactly as we had seen in travel photographs and documentaries. Of course, the highlight of a visit to Ta Prohm is to see the giant tree roots, however, the temple walkways, doorways, engravings, and hidden treasures are just as impressive.

tree roots in Ta Prohm

Grand walkways gave us an idea of what life in this royal temple may have been like when it was first constructed. I imagined the courtiers strolling through the maze of corridors and chambers in the shade of the jungle canopy. How magical it must have been in those ancient times.

As we wandered through the complex, we encountered a nun giving out blessings. She asked us to choose a coloured piece of string which she wound around our wrists and knotted. She then blessed us, and even though we didn’t understand her words, the spiritual understanding between us was incredibly powerful.

Of course, we gave a small donation, but it must have been too much as she made us take extra bracelets away with us. Little gestures like this will make you fall in love with Cambodia and its people.

Of course, I couldn’t leave without having my photo taken by ‘that’ doorway; you know, the one that was featured in Tomb Raider. Well here it is, and because we had gone later in the afternoon the crowds of tourists that usually descend on this particular spot had left.

As we finished our time in this iconic temple I still couldn’t believe I had finally made it to this incredible location. For me, Ta Prohm, along with the ancient temples in Egypt, is possibly one of the most incredible places I have ever visitied and definitely one of the must-see landmarks in Cambodia.

Where To Next?

As with our visit to Bayon the previous day, we explored Ta Prohm in the late afternoon and found it practically empty. We spent around an hour in Ta Prohm and when we met our tuk-tuk driver he suggested that we let him take us to another temple deep in the jungle.

That temple just happened to be Ta Nei and, when we arrived 20 minutes later, we were the only ones there. I can’t believe how lucky had we been so far on our 4-night trip to Siem Reap and can only imagine that our ‘temple experience’ would have been very different with lots of other tourists around us making noise and taking selfies!

We enjoyed Ta Nei and, while it is a lot smaller than Ta Prohm, it too has tree roots growing over its ruins so is worth visiting.

You can read here about Ta Nei – The Hidden Jungle Temple

Ta Nei Temple in Siem Reap

Follow me on my Cambodia Temple Journey to Discover

Preah Khan – The Sacred Sword Temple and Angkor Wat – Cambodia’s Most Treasured Temple

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