Ta Prohm, Angkor - Cambodia | Traveler Maps
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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Ta Prohm, Angkor - Cambodia

Unlike most of the temples of Angkor, Ta Prohm has been largely left to the clutches of the living jungle. With its dynamic interaction between nature and man-made art, this atmospheric temple is a favorite for many - who can't help but feel a little like Indiana Jones or Lara Croft (which was filmed here) as they pick through the rubble.

Construction on Ta Prohm began in 1186 AD. Originally known as Rajavihara (Monastery of the King), Ta Prohm was a Buddhist temple dedicated to the mother of King Jayavarman VII.

A rare inscription at Ta Prohm provides statistics on the temple's workers. Allowing for some exaggeration to honor the king, the inscription's report of around 80,000 workers, including 2700 officials and 615 dancers, is still astounding.

Sadly, Ta Prohm was looted quite heavily in recent years due to its relative isolation, and many of its ancient stone reliquaries have been lost.

What to See

Great trees tower above Ta Prohm, their leaves filtering the sunlight, providing welcome shade and casting a greenish light over the otherwordly site. Delicately carved reliefs on the walls sprout lichen, moss and creeping plants.

Some as wide as an oak tree, the vines at Ta Prohm cleave massive stones in two and spill over the top of temple ramparts. The effect is striking, especially at the strangulating root formation on the inside of the easternmost gopura (entrance pavilion). 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.

Ta Prohm is extensively ruined, but you can still explore numerous towers, close courtyards and narrow corridors, discovering hidden gems of stone reliefs beneath the encroaching foliage. Many of the corridors are impassible, thanks to the jumbled piles of carved stone blocks that clog their interiors.

There are 39 towers at Ta Prohm, which are connected by numerous galleries. Visitors are no longer permitted to climb onto the crumbling galleries, due to the potential damage to both temple and visitor.

The exterior wall of the compound is 1km by 600m (1/2 mile by 1,969 feet) and the entrance gates have the classic Jayavarman face. Most visitors enter from the west gate, and some drivers will agree to pick you up on the other side. A line of open-air eateries is just outside the main entrance to Ta Prohm, popular places for a snack or lunch.

Local children often duck the security into Ta Prohm (an easier feat here than at other temples) and offer to guide you through the temple. If you don't want them to follow you around, politely tell them so; if you do want assistance finding a good photo spot or interesting sight, try to agree on a price first (2000r or whatever you choose). This is the advice of Lonely Planet, which advises: "throwing around dollar bills is not such a good idea, as it breeds expectancy and contempt."