Travel Log: Ta Prohm, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Today I'd like to continue my travel log series by sharing one more post from our recent visit to Cambodia and the Angkor Archaeological Park.  We spent a full day visiting the major temples in Siem Reap, with a first stop at Angkor Wat (see post here) and a second stop at Angkor Thom (see post here).  Our last stop was Ta Prohm, also known as the "Jungle Temple" and included in the Angkor day pass.  Unlike Angkor Wat or Bayon, Ta Prohm was not restored back to its original state but instead left overgrown with trees similar to how it was found by French archaeologists in the early 20th centuryOver the years, silk-cotton and strangler fig tree roots slowly took over large sections of the temple and created its now iconic look.  Restoration work on Ta Prohm added support to the structure and created walkways for tourists, and the uniqueness of this temple makes it a must-see when visiting the Angkor Archaeological Park.  Please read on for photos and details of our walk through Ta Prohm.

 Ta Prohm was built by King Jayavarman VII in the late 12th and early 13th centuries as a Buddhist temple dedicated to his mother.  The most popular of the many tree root formations is the massive  "crocodile tree" shown above.

The Angkor temples were discovered by French archaeologists in the early 20th century, and at the time they were found all temples were overgrown.  However, Ta Prohm was unique in how the giant tree roots took over the temple and altered its structure.  While the other Angkor Temples were restored as close to original state as possible, it was decided to leave the trees at Ta Prohm and restore the temple with those giant roots in place.

Ta Prohm is laid out in a square with a central sanctuary, courtyards, and towers all connected by narrow corridors.  It is amazing to see the effects of the trees on this complex: over time the tree roots displaced stone pillars and blocks from the temple's walls and left piles of stone blocks like the scenes above.

Restoration was completed to allow tourists to walk through as much of the temple as possible and still keep its now iconic trees in place.

Ta Prohm was one of the locations where the movie "Tomb Raider" was filmed in 2000, and many people remember the scene where Angelina Jolie picked a jasmine flower and then was sucked down below the ground.

Tourism was already growing in 2000 when the movie was filmed, and Ta Prohm is now called the "Tomb Raider Temple" or "Angelina Jolie Temple" by both guidebooks and local guides.  Fifteen years later, millions of visitors make a special trip to Ta Prohm to take photos in this iconic scene.

The layout and current condition of Ta Prohm often make visitors feel like they are inside either a video game such as "Tomb Raider" or the "Temple Run" series, a mobile game where a player is an explorer running through a temple with treasure.  It brings out the explorer in all of us!

Some people might avoid Ta Prohm because of its Hollywood fame, but the decision to leave this temple in its overgrown state make it one of the more unique and interesting temples in the Angkor region and a testament to the power of nature.

Ta Prohm gets very crowded with tourists during the day, but we were able to take most of our photos without anyone else in them.  It takes a little bit of patience and timing if you visit in the afternoon like we did, but you can do it.

This is one of the larger tree root formations in Ta Prohm, located on the east side close to the exit.  It is amazing to see how these trees grew untouched for centuries after the fall of the Khmer empire in the 15th century.

I hope you enjoyed these photos of Ta Prohm, the "Jungle Temple" with fascinating history and atmosphere.  Please stay tuned next week for the last leg of our Southeast Asia tour: Hong Kong and Macau.  I hope you have a great rest of your week!


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