Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Ta Prohm aka. The Tomb Raider Temple

After Angkor Wat, one of the first temples in Cambodia that springs to mind is Ta Prohm, known by many as the Tomb Raider temple. While some claim that one of the Indiana Jones movies was shot here as well, there is no proof of that.

Built in the 12th century and abandoned in the 15th, when the temple was rediscovered in the early 20th century, several large trees had set roots through the temple walls. Early restoration efforts mostly involved clearing the scrub and making the temple accessible, but the size of the roots and how they had grown between the sandstone blocks of the temple walls made removing them impossible.

As you enter Ta Prohm from the east, just before you get to the main temple area, you pass a Dharmasala, or firehouse (literally a house with a fire where pilgrims can rest on their travels).

Ta Prohm is famous for it's trees, such as this one that featured in the Tomb Raider movie with Angelina Jolie. While much of the vegetation has been cleared now, quite a few of the larger trees were deliberately left to give an impression of what the temple looked like prior to the last 30 years of careful restoration.

As with some of the other Angkor temples, Ta Prohm is quite the labyrinth of passageways, with some amazing interior decor to be seen.
Apsara dancers decorate the walls of this hall of Ta Prohm.

While there are not as many of the story telling bas reliefs as there are at some other temples, there is certainly no shortage of carvings on the walls, such as this multi headed naga serpent.

As with many Angkor temples, works to restore Ta Prohm are ongoing, with the Indian government working with Cambodian locals in this case. That said, Ta Prohm is intended to be carefully restored, leaving some of the ruins as they are.

The restoration works have included laying timber walkways throughout Ta Prohm to make the temple safer for tourists.

These temple ruins may look neglected, but that is intentional here, with much of the restoration work focussing on stabilizing the ruins of Ta Prohm as they are.

There is no shortage of discussion about what the animal in the centre carving here is. There is no definitive answer as to why there appears to be a stegosaurus carved into the walls of Ta Prohm.

Part of the beautiful, and still standing, exterior of the Ta Promh temple building.

We visited Ta Prohm in the afternoon in late September, and while there are less tourists than you would find earlier in the day, and in the drier months, Ta Prohm was still quite busy. If (or when) we come back to Cambodia, I'd love to get a 7 day Angkor pass and spend another hour or 2 just taking in some of these temples as even though we did not rush through them, it still seems there is much more to be seen here.

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