Backpacking across South East Asia -Ta Prohm, Angkor

by Puru


Feb 18, 2012

“If Angkor Wat, the Bayon and other temples are testimony to the genius of the ancient Khmers, Ta Prohm reminds us equally of the awesome fecundity and power of the jungle.”

— Lonely Planet Cambodia

At first I was planning to club Ta Prohm with Angkor Wat but this place is so unique and beautiful in itself that it seemed totally unfair to not to give this place a dedicated tribute.

Backpacking across South East Asia -Ta Prohm, Angkor 1

Might Fig

So after a sumptuous lunch, we drove through the forest and narrow lanes and came to the gates of Ta Prohm. The outside was quite crowded with tourists, vendors and construction workers working on the restoration of the main gate. Had to walk a little on a dusty track, there were vendors selling traditional musical instruments and a group of musicians, apparently landmine victims, playing soothing Cambodian music. At the end of this path, we came across a small wooden bridge leading to the temple. I was astonished to see a signboard in Hindi warning of Danger! It was then that we realized, with some pride, that it was our own ASI working to restore the monument.

Backpacking across South East Asia -Ta Prohm, Angkor 2

A glimpse into the past

Built-in 1181 AD by Jayavarman VII, Ta Prohm was a huge temple complex home to as many as 12,500 people at a time. The expansion of the temple continued way till the 13th century after which it the decline started with the decline of the Khmer civilization. For centuries, the temple got swallowed up by the jungle and remained forgotten till it was discovered again in the 19th century.

Tomb Raider

Remember Tomb Raider?

Ironically, the real beauty of Ta Prohm lies in its state of ruin. In this place, the skill of man and the might of nature have combined together in a unique fusion of an art form which at the plainest can be called surreal. Here, one can see both sides of nature- as the creator and the destroyer. Giant roots of fig and banyan trees coil around intricately carved stones like the death-like grip of a serpent. The ruins and the jungle together present a unique haunted charm which is difficult to be crafted in words. My photographs seem so inadequate in expressing those feelings. I could only wonder how the early explorers would have reacted when they stumbled upon this jewel from antiquity. You can see some great Angkor and Ta Prohm photographs by National Geographic here.

Backpacking across South East Asia -Ta Prohm, Angkor 3

Ta Prohm in the light of the day

So, in sheer amazement, we wandered through the ruins. It was such mazelike that very soon I and Jayant got separated from the other two and wandered aimlessly through dark corridors, piles of stones and still standing monuments with huge trees coming out of them. There were ancient doors gripped by the roots of a banyan, and the famous “Tomb Raider” tree where Lara Croft gets sucked in the ground. For a brief period when even Jayant had strayed away, I was totally alone there and felt as if I had no sense of direction or time. I know am getting too verbose, but the place did it to me.

Backpacking across South East Asia -Ta Prohm, Angkor 4

Ruins and Jungle in a complex synergy

Finding it really hard to explain what Ta Prohm really is, I stop here and leave it up to you whether you want to explore the place yourself. If you really go, reach there in the morning when the temple is said to be at its mysterious best, take a torch with you and if possible, a compass. Do let me know how it felt like when you come back 🙂

Ta Prohm, a set on Flickr.
Mighty Fig along the staircaseTemple shrouded by rootsEncapsulation :PDoor to the pastGuys trying to figure out the mapMade into a place for photoshoots
Ta PromTa Prom in b/wTa Prom templeThrough the ruinsBuddha carvings over a doorA famous landmark of Ta Prom
Huge tree over a TempleApsaraThe GalleryThe Gallery before and after, thanks ASIThe workers who are making it all possibleDoor carved in stone
Door carved in stoneHindi in Cambodia :DThe Gallery againBuddha
Backpacking across South East Asia -Ta Prohm, Angkor 5
Backpacking across South East Asia -Ta Prohm, Angkor 5


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About the Author


Puru is an IT Project Manager from Pune, India and an avid blogger. He is passionate about travel, photography, cinema and books. He blogs on Shadows Galore, Art House Cinema, The Mutinous Indian and Antarnaad.

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  1. Sudhagee

    Sigh ! Deep sigh ! It’s mysterious and romantic and spooky at the same time. Great photos and write-up as usual, Puru

    • Puru

      🙂 Thanks again Sudha. Pls go there once

  2. Kajal

    The post has come at the right time because my husband and me are planning on a backpacking trip this july-aug. The pics look good.
    Just discovering Indiblogger and glad I found you. Voted for your post there too. and following you via Networked.


    • Puru

      Thats great! What are the places you want to visit ?

  3. Team G Square

    Wow , Nice place . Should visit this place some time in future .

  4. Neil Killion

    Great article Puru. I studied Angkor Wat at Uni. but I have never been. Thanks so much for sharing this.

    • Puru

      Thanks Neil, please check the latest post on Angkor Wat 🙂


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