Ta Prohm is quite possibly Cambodia’s best temple. Despite being close to Angkor Wat and Bayon, Ta Prohm holds its own against its more famous cousins.
It was built in 1186 and was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992. Interestingly, the idea for the video game franchise Tomb Raider was taken from the images here of Ta Prohm.
I wanted to arrive at Ta Prohm fairly early to avoid most of the crowds. By Tuktuk from downtown Siem Reap, it took about 15 minutes. When I arrived at Ta Prohm, sure enough the crowds were fairly manageable and I was able to get my Angkor Pass inspected and then able to head in to the temple. There is a long dirt road from the car park into the actual temple, and you can hear the aggressive screeching of the crickets and cicadas in the jungle either side of you, which all adds to the atmosphere of the place.
Not long after you enter the temple proper, you can see the famous overgrown trees that have captured the temple ruins. For the tourists, this is a major photo opportunity. Crowds of tourists can always be seen posing in front of these overgrown tree roots, but I found it more interesting to look at the details on the ruins themselves. The closer you look, the more you will discover, especially if you have done a bit of research beforehand.
Disturbingly, I did notice a few huge hornets nests high above Ta Prohm, especially in the inner courtyard areas. I did not see any hornets (only ants) but it was still a little disconcerting to see their nests above me as I was exploring. In Sri Lanka at Sigiriya, there are also hornets nests nearby and we were told to keep quiet to avoid provoking them. Here at Ta Prohm, no such warnings exist.
Overgrown roots and hanging vines are what makes Ta Prohm so special, and so different from many of the other temples in the Angkor region. Of course, you have Beng Mealea and Preah Khan that are jungle ruins, but Ta Prohm is the best out of the three. It has been left in much the same condition as it was found, unlike most of the other temples here, which have had extensive restoration work. I did notice that some restoration at Ta Prohm was underway, as a joint effort between Cambodia and India.
Ta Prohm can get quite busy and touristy, so an alternative temple with similar ‘jungle ruins’ settings may be the underrated Preah Khan – check out my experience there!