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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrThe internationally renowned ‘Tomb Raider Temple’ is one of the most extraordinary in all of Siem Reap and an incredible place to admire the unrelenting force of Mother Nature. The Bayon-style architecture is splendid enough, yet seeing the temple being slowly reclaimed by the surrounding forest is what makes this a truly mesmerizing sight; crowds notwithstanding. Along with Angkor Wat’s main entrance, this would have to be the most photographed and visited site in the entire archaeological area of central Cambodia.
Brief HistoryTa Phrom was originally called ‘Rajavihara’ when it was built in the late 1100s. The extensive complex of temples and monasteries were built by a Khmer King as a Mahayana Buddhist center of learning and worship. There is little doubt that the entire complex is yet another splendid example of ancient Khmer architecture, yet the fact that this site was almost entirely abandoned for centuries meant that it is found in a much greater state of disrepair as opposed to the main Angkor Wat temples.
This has resulted in the breathtaking scenes which you’ll admire today. Colossal branches and roots intertwined in the temple’s columns and through roofs and windows make it a most astonishing sight. The temple’s location, in the heart of a luscious forest, adds to the allure and mystical vibe. A current project of repair and restoration is underway, however much of the effort is concentrated in making the site safe and easy for visitors to access, whilst retaining the ‘decrepit’ look of the forest-temple.
Ta Prohm shot to fame when it was included and used in the filming of the Tomb Raider movie starring Angelina Jolie.
How to Plan your VisitYou’ll find Ta Prohm brimming with tourists no matter what time of day you visit, although crowds palpably thin out between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m., which is when most tour groups will be herded to one restaurant or another for lunch. Having said this, most visitors tend to spend only about an hour here, so if you do have more time, stick around, take a seat in a shaded spot and await a quiet moment. It will no doubt come.
Much hoo-hah is made about a sunrise trip to Angkor Wat and all surrounding temples, yet many find this a little counter-productive. This is almost useless in Angkor Wat, as the temple is west-facing (so a sunset visit makes more sense than a sunrise one) and Ta Prohm almost irrelevant because the surrounding forest canopy keeps it shady for much of the morning. Nevertheless, this is the most peaceful time of day to visit so it may be a worthwhile effort to go to, if just to enjoy it in peace and quiet.
As you enter the gates of the Ta Prohm complex you’ll have to walk a fair few minutes to reach the main site. Along the way, you’ll come across a small temple on the right-hand side and, if you go to the rear of it, will see how the nearby vines have almost uprooted the whole temple off the ground.
The temple of Ta Prohm is a collection of pagodas and prayer halls, with the complex accessible through two of the original gates at the four cardinal points, bound by a picturesque moat and framed by gigantic silk-cotton and fig trees.
You’ll find some carvings and reliefs along the entrance walls of Ta Prohm, yet these are not are not nearly as intriguing as in other temples. It’s the exterior impressions here which make it unforgettable.
Most visitor traffic is concentrated on the central walkway and although this is a must-do as it’s the only way to get access to the central courtyards, do take some time to walk around the temple, on the path behind the moat. Photos from this angle are just superb.
How to Get ThereThe temple is found about an hour’s drive out of town, just a few kilometers past the very interesting Cambodian Landmine Museum. Most visitors choose to take a half-day trip to visit the two attractions, either by hiring a tuk-tuk or air-conditioned taxi, or renting bicycles to self-tour. A guide is unnecessary, especially once you know a little about the site and its importance. Entry to Ta Prohm is included in the Angkor Wat single or multi-day entry pass.
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Author: Laura Pattara. Last updated: Mar 27, 2015