Temple Name: Ta Prohm
Notable Features: Fig and silk-cotton trees grow through the temple stone.
Getting There: Ta Prohm is located east of Angkor Thom, southwest of the East mebon. Any tuk tuk driver will know how to get to Ta Prohm
The Temple of the Trees
Ta Prohm is one of the most photographed sites in Cambodia’s northern temple region. Archeologists have intentionally left it in an advanced state of ruin. Piles of crumbled stone fill the temple’s courtyards, vestibules, and walking paths. Fig and silk-cotton trees puncture the roofs of Ta Prohm’s towers. Their mighty roots pry apart the temple’s building blocks, while also appearing to hold them in place. Mosses adorn the temple walls. Vines and other flora creep their way across the temple grounds. Parrots fly from tree to tree, squawking overhead. Ta Prohm is a jungle paradise.
French archeologists decided to leave Ta Prohm in its “natural state” so that future visitors could experience the same charm that affected Angkor’s early explorers. Additionally, the archeologists wanted to juxtapose Ta Prohm’s advanced state of ruin against the meticulously restored temples nearby.
King Jayavarman VII, who dedicated the temple to his mother, built Ta Prohm around 1186 CE. The construction of Ta Prohm was one of the crowning achievements of Jayavarman VII’s kingship, and the temple-city became tremendously powerful and wealthy in its time. Thousands of men worked in Ta Prohm to protect its enormous stores of gold and rare gems. Priests and monks wondered the temple grounds, upholding the temple’s stylistic devotion to the tenants of Buddhism. And a powerful military and royal presence reigned over more than 3000 neighboring villages. Archeologists believe that more than 12,000 people once lived in Ta Prohm.
Ta Prohm is best viewed in the early morning hours or the afternoon. Because of the temple’s unique appearance and fascinating history, you will surely want to spend hours here. Ta Prohm’s fallen structures will make you feel like a true explorer. There are crevices in Ta Prohm that open up into now-hidden vestibules and sanctuaries. Akthough fascinating, these crumbled monuments and crevices can be quite dangerous to explore. So wear some good walking shoes, and watch your step.
Only the western of Ta Prohm’s four gopuras (gateways) remains in good condition. The others have crumbled or have been swallowed by the fig and silk-cotton trees. Passing through the western gopura, visitors enter the temple’s massive courtyard. In the courtyard, you will get a wonderful panorama of local flora and ancient monuments existing in harmony.
Ta Prohm should be included on any temple itinerary!