Long ago a decision was made to leave the jungle in place at Ta Prohm, as a result it has become the most evocative, iconic, and most photographed of all the ruins at Angkor. Enormous Kapok trees grow from its walls and terraces, their massive roots clinging to masonry, framing apertures and slowly prising apart giant stones.
Exploring the temple complex is an amazing and unique experience. Be sure to set aside plenty of time to visit Ta Prohm, which should guarantee you have a few moments away from the hoards of tourists that the temple attracts.
Ta Prohm was constructed by Jayavarman VII in around 1186 and was a Buddhist monastery dedicated to Prajnaparamita. It was a working monastery, accommodating 12,000 people (including 18 high priests and 615 dancers) who worked and lived in the grounds.
It’s a staggering number of people for what is a relatively small temple, supplemented with a further 80,000 who were employed locally to service and maintain the temple complex. Additionally, the monastery supplied medicines and provisions for over 100 hospitals that Jayavarman VII established throughout his kingdom.
Some of the most photographed trees in the world lie within the temple complex, I’m afraid I have also added to that count :-). It’s impossible to resist them, and all too easy to get caught up investigating the galleries and searching out new views. I would have benefited from a wider angle lens, and a lot more time to explore the complex by myself.
Being part of an organised tour has it’s drawbacks, on reviewing the photographs it looks as though I was there for a mere 40 minutes. If you like your ruins, or photography, I think 90 minutes would be a more sufficient length of time to fully immerse yourself with the place.
If you feel Ta Prohm would make the ideal location for a film like “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, you’d be right. The temple was used as a location in the film “Tomb Raider”, and made good use of its eerie qualities.
Ta Prohm was obviously going to be one of the highlights of my visit to Angkor, and I was not disappointed. Whilst the jungle has been left to work on the temple structures, it is of course kept in check and there’s an almost constant process of ensuring the right balance is maintained, and the site most importantly remains stable for visitors.
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