Awe and Wonder: Ta Prohm

Have you ever watched the movie Laura Croft: Tomb Raider? If you have then a must stop is the Tomb Raider Temple, as it is often referred to, within the Angkor Wat area in Cambodia. Its official name is Ta Phohm, but due to the movie’s success and popularity rarely is it referred to in that way. I think I had seen the movie years ago and all memories and expectations from it were lost. Others come because it is one of the temples where the large trees still cover the walls and give it a lost/explorer type atmosphere as you wander through the combination of recently preserved walkways and parts that still lay in ruins.

Just inside the main entrance our first glimpse of the incredible man vs nature in Ta Prohm

Just inside the main entrance our first glimpse of the incredible man vs nature in Ta Prohm

This was the one temple I was most looking forward to. The photos and stories I had seen and heard made it sound mystical and magical. As we approached the temple along a wide sandy path I wasn’t disappointed. The small stone temple complex with some crumbling stone masonry around gave it an incredible atmosphere. Unfortunately it was under restoration and over run by tourists, so the atmosphere was quickly lost.

Close up of the massive trees that have over taken and caused some of distruction to the ancient temples

Close up of the massive trees that have over taken and caused some of destruction to the ancient temples

Soon as you enter the main area a large cloud of dust greets you. A main temple is surrounded by scaffolds and small cranes as workers reconstruct the fallen. Stone masons carve and add designs into the stone by hand to recover the lost motifs and images. Restoration is important since the large trees that reach up high have taken their toll on the delicate stones balanced to form walls, paths and pillars. The tongue and grove and indents that fit each piece together like a puzzle is no match for the large roots that snake under the foundations, over walls and through roof tops. Ta Prohm has many areas that have collapsed and fallen over time. I found it surprising how piles of stone were casually strewn about and covered with mosses. The fallen walls, arches and columns a result of time and nature.


We came here after a morning of the elusive sunrise at Angkor Wat. It is a short drive around the Angkor complex. It was getting close to noon, so the sun was bright and high in the sky. It is recommended, to make the most of your photos, as the best time to visit due to the thick foliage that causes darkness and shadow at other times of the day. Numerous tourists and tour groups swarmed the most photogenic areas.Β  I patiently had to wait to get a photo in numerous areas only to be frustrated as I was jostled by the crowds or someone would walk into your shot without as much as an apology when it was finally my turn. The crowds made the temple less enjoyable and it certainly lost its mystique.


I wandered the many passages and paths that were like a maze within the complex itself. Many passages were narrow and shallow making me wonder how small the former Khmer people were. I got lost as I went inside and out from darkness to light, only to find my way when I encountered the small Buddha statues dressed in a variety of ways. Each Buddha was decorated slightly different helping me recall my route. The smell of intense in the air would tell me I was getting close to such a small altar with a local person passing you incense sticks for good luck, but then requesting a donation after doing so.

I found John again after getting separated in the large crowd earlier and we retraced our steps to leave. Outside the inner passages we walked along part of corridor one which was recently restored the other still crumbled and fallen. Few people ventured this way and it was much more enjoyable and serene. From here we could see the many walls that were set like mazes making me wonder what other secrets and passages we left unexplored. I wished to return to Ta Prohm again, hopefully without the crowds.

Luckily after long waits or hidden areas within the large temple maze I was able to get some incredible shots I was hoping for.

Luckily after long waits or hidden areas within the large temple maze I was able to get some incredible shots I was hoping for.

Stay tuned…. more temples from Cambodia

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36 thoughts on “Awe and Wonder: Ta Prohm

  1. Just stunning!

    • Thanks… it was a very cool place. Cambodia is just up and coming, so it was cool to see it before it is over run by chain restaurants and hotels. It was like going back in time. Very easy going nature and feel to the place. The temples were amazing and every bit carved in detail. We spent way more time than the recommended hour to tour around. I just wanted to take it all in πŸ™‚

  2. Freda Goulet

    I am at a loss for words…your pictures are so incredible. Thanks for letting us see through your eyes and camera this beautiful old temple.

    • Thanks. It was very amazing… except for the crowds who got pushy. I tried to stay away from the main path and explore which was good since I found a few of my own hidden treasures. Each surface was carved in designs so we spent a lot of extra time to taking it all in.

  3. I’ve always wanted to visit this temple…it’s just os mysterious and mystic…and yes, I also watched Laura Croft…but I swear it has nothing to do with why I’d like to see the temples πŸ˜‰

    • Laura Croft did do a lot for Cambodian tourism and make it known. A lot of the tuk tuk drivers refer to it as Tomb Raider and tour groups go there because of the movie. I didn’t want to go there for those reasons either… I just wanted to see the cool images in person; of the trees growing over the walls and buildings. I love history and this was so interesting. Unfortunately the crowds were a bit much, so I got lost and off the main route and found my own treasures πŸ™‚

      • I think that you probably found the best way to go look at a famous site…getting lost and away from the crowds, you may not have the famous photo that 3 millions tourists took, but alas sigh, poor dear) you do have some great photos! πŸ˜‰ lol

        • Thanks… every tourist attraction has people and you will have them in your shot, but it was the pushing that got to me, or standing right in front of you to take their shot when I am sure they saw I was there first. It wasn’t like I was taking a long time. I did enjoy it much better when we wandered off alone and enjoyed the sites without the crowds.

          • that standing right in front of you really gets on my nerves…and I don’t like a lot of people around me per se…a bit agoraphobic I think…you really had a brilliant idea going off on your own.

            • I think after a few too many pushes I may have hit someone so best to give myself a ‘time out’ … hee hee. The standing right in front gets me everytime… and you know they see you.

              • oh yes, that happen to me when I was at Padoua in late spring..I was photographing some minstrals at the Historical re-enactment and up pops this idiot with his big camera, right in front of me…

                • Sometimes they think they have the more expensive camera so it gives them more right… same thing happened at sunrise with all these people with tripods and big camera taking up so much room as we all waited for sunrise at Angkor. I found another spot not as busy and it was much better with fewer people… only the sun decided not to poke its head out until later that morning.

                  • Yes, I think you’re right about the big camera and feeling important. That was certainly the case in Padua…ha! about the Sun, sorry you didn’t get your photo…but feeling nastily happy about the tripoders though i shouldn’t, I’m sure there were probably some nice people there respectful of others…it’s just that it’s pretty rare in these occasions.

                    • Well in the sunrise case it was the early bird catches the worm… or best spot πŸ˜‰ We had to stop for tickets since it was our first day at the park so we arrived a bit later than many. It was a disappointment, but another co-worker got to see it and said her guide told them it had been cloudy the last while so she was the exception that week. The odds were against us. Oh well when you leave something undone it is just a reason to return πŸ˜‰

                    • Like your closing statement…a good reason to return as you say! I’ve found that life likes to play tricks on us. The more we want to do something the harder it becomes…of course that could just be an impression πŸ˜‰

                    • Hmmm interesting observation. Maybe that is a test to see if you really want it or will give up.

                    • lol…don’t know about tests, but human nature says that if you really ant something you’ll find a way to get it πŸ˜‰

                    • πŸ˜‰ true

  4. Stunning!! These are great shot of the temple! The roots, Wow!

    • They are very cool and to see it in person. It put it in a whole new perspective. I couldn’t believe how BIG the trees and roots were. No wonder so many of the buildings have fallen.
      Thanks for the visit πŸ™‚

      • Roots over these building look pretty scary… Was it a day long trip?

        • Well it depends on how long you have as to how long you want to tour the temples. Passes come in 1 day, 3 day and 1 week options. Then you need a driver on top of that. We didn’t want to over do it and enjoy things so we did the 3 days pass. We broke up seeing the temples over 3 days and went for a half a day each time. It can get really hot mid day too, so I am not sure how enjoyable it would be in the heat. We lucked out with cooler temperatures, so it was OK. There is so much to see and so many temples in the area you could spend weeks there I am sure. Most people do the big/main ones all in one day if they are passing through. If you have longer then people do the 3 day pass and do the inner and outter ring of temples. We had our own driver and picked what we wanted to see, so we planned things out in our own way. There are many options. If you ever go let me know and I can give you the name and driver of the fellow we used who was really great.

  5. Wow. Just wow. I fell in love with the place when the movie was shot there. I’m probably one of the few who still refer to it as Ta Prohm. I gotta admit, Tomb Raider Temple does have a nice ring to it.

    • Yes and it is easy to remember and say. Referring to it from something that is part of popular culture makes it more interesting too I am sure. Conjures up images in your imagination, if you never saw the movie, or recalls things from the movie if you had. It is a win win for the tours and tuk tuk drivers.
      It was pretty amazing… but very crowded.

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  7. I think that that Buddhist monks would be happy with your patience and your flexibility. Perhaps they are still teaching people in these temples?

    • The still come everyday and some people have great shots of them in the bright orange robes. I grabbed a few, but some are blurry. I have one I may post though… the temples here were never lost. Only to the west they went unknown for years, but the monks still came.

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    I must go!! Your gallery is fantastic!!!

    • It is very cool and tourism is slowly increasing. It is one of the few places that is still really cheap to visit. Rooms that are half decent can range between $10-30 a night! Food is like $3-5 a meal. If you go let me know and I can forward some details about a great driver we had.

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