Temple Name: Ta Som
Notable Features: Well-preserved bas-reliefs. A Ficus tree grows from the roof of the eastern gopura (gate).
Getting There: Ta Som is accessed from the eastern Mebon. It is located on the right, after the 13 km marker stone.
A Charming Pile of Stones
Ta Som is a small Bayon-style temple on the east end of the Jayatataka baray (a man-made lake). The temple walls form a 30-meter by 20-meter rectangle that is surrounded by a moat. King Jayavarman erected this temple in the late 12th century to pay homage to the principles of Buddhism.
The eastern gopura is ornamented with four carved faces of Lokesvara, an enlightened being who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas. From within the gopura, a mighty Ficus tree reaches into the heavens. Its roots seem to be ripping apart the temple’s building blocks in slow motion. Examine the tree in another light, and its roots also seem to be cradling the temple, protecting it from the claws of time.
Excavators left Ta Som in an advanced state of ruin. Although archeologists continue to clear debris and reassemble certain structures, Ta Som remains pleasantly disheveled. Ta Som reminds us that we can only borrow from the Earth for so long. Eventually, she will wake back what is rightfully hers.
The temple towers are arranged in quincunx formation. Quincunx is a temple blueprint in which five towers are arranged in an “X” pattern. Originally, the temple was entered from the east. Today, however, visitors climb over the collapsed stones of the western wall. The eastern tower is the only of the five original towers that is still standing. Beautiful bas-reliefs adorn this resilient tower, which appears victorious next to its fallen neighbors.
Not only have archeologists and excavators neglected Ta Som, but it also receives very little tourist traffic. As a result, exploring Ta Som can be a unique and peaceful experience for the adventurous traveler.