The overgrown Ta Prohm temple is maybe best known for the part it played in the movie “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider”. And yes, this is where I first learnt about this beautiful temple so I was quite excited at getting to explore this temple for myself. Although it is known that the film took visual liberties with other Angkor temples, its scenes of Ta Prohm were quite faithful to the temple’s actual appearance. Only afterwards did I think that I should have dressed “Tomb Raider” for photos at this temple. Hopefully there will be a next time and then I will be prepared.
Ta Prohm is a bit more than one kilometre from Angkor Thom but this time my mom and I made use of our trusted tuk-tuk driver instead of walking. I think both of us were still recovering from our adventure through the jungle in search of Ta Nei temple the previous day.
This beautiful temple was founded by the Khmer King Jayavarman VII as a Mahayana Buddhist monastery and university. What a magnificent structure to have learnt and studied in. Although if you want to enter it now you should bring a torch with as its quite dark inside with all the narrow passages. Mom and I opted for exploring the outside of the temple as I don’t like tight spaces and mom is scared of any dark spaces so together we probably would have freaked out within a minute of trying to find our way inside this huge temple.
Ta Prohm itself is a quiet, sprawling monastic complex and only partially cleared of jungle overgrowth and intentionally left partially unrestored. Unlike most Angkor temples, Ta Prohm has been left in much the same condition in which it was found. After the fall of the Khmer Empire in the 17th century, the temple of Ta Prohm was abandoned and neglected for centuries. When the effort to conserve and restore the temples of Angkor began in the early 21st century, Ta Prohm was left largely as it had been found, as a “concession to the general taste for the picturesque.” It is said that Ta Prohm was singled out because it was “one of the most imposing temples and the one which had best merged with the jungle, but not yet to the point of becoming a part of it”. Although they have left it unrestored a lot of work has been done to stabilize the ruins, to permit access, and to maintain “this condition of apparent neglect.”
There are massive fig and silk-cotton trees that grow from the towers and corridors offering some of the best ‘tree-in-temple’ photo opportunities ever. The combination of trees growing out of the ruins and the jungle surroundings gives this temple a very eerie quality. We had a great adventure climbing over the fallen walls and rubble everywhere to get close to the overgrown ruins.
The trees growing out of the ruins are perhaps the most distinctive and definitely most striking feature of Ta Prohm, and the one feature that sets it apart from all the other temples in Angkor Wat. All over the place there are endless roots coiling more like reptiles than plants over the ruins.
Some roots are as wide as oak trees, the vines at Ta Prohm cleave massive stones in two and spill over the top of temple ramparts. The effect is striking, especially where the roots form an enclosure around entrances to the temple. I couldnt help but feel a little like Indiana Jones or Lara Croft as we picked our way through the rubble and over the fallen blocks.
Another popular site is the “Tomb Raider tree” in the central sanctuary, where Angelina Jolie picked a jasmine flower and was sucked beneath the earth. There were no jasmine around but other than that the place looked exactly like in the movie!! This was the perfect way to end our Ta Prohm adventure.