Ta Prohm is one of the most photographed and most visited temple complexes in Cambodia’s Angkor region.
Since watching Tomb Raider starring Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft, Ta Prohm, engulfed by giant strangler fig trees, it 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 centuries before.
Ta Prohm is unique in every sense of the word and a place everyone should visit on a trip to Cambodia.
Step Inside Ta Prohm Temple in Angkor
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 became one of the many structures around the world to have been reclaimed by Mother Nature.
Fast forward to 1860, 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 more recently, 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.
Wander Around Ta Prohm Temple
Time spent in Ta Prohm – 60 minutes
Upon entering Ta Prohm, it was 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.
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.
We encountered a nun giving out blessings as we wandered through the complex.
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, our spiritual understanding 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. 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, the one 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.
Ta Prohm, along with the ancient temples in Egypt, is possibly one of the most incredible places I have ever visited and one of Cambodia’s must-see landmarks.
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.
Where To Next?
As with our previous visit to Bayon, 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 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 we had been so far on our 4-night trip to Siem Reap, and I 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 much smaller than Ta Prohm, it also has tree roots growing over its ruins, so it is worth visiting.
You can read here about Ta Nei – The Hidden Jungle Temple.
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