Before my trip to Cambodia, I knew about Angkor Wat (of course!). But, I did not know about Ta Prohm. I had seen pictures of it but did not know that it was a specific temple close to Angkor Wat and, much less, its name or extent of the wonders it contains. I did hear about it more concretely from someone who had been to Siem Reap before right before I got there so it got on the “itinerary” of the temples to visit while in Siem Reap. It is hard to say that it is my favorite over Angkor Wat or Bayon. In fact, it is hard to pick any of those over the others; each has something that feels unique enough to lift it in my “estimation.”
Ta Prohm’s claim to fame, if you will, is how trees have taken over the ruins of this former temple complex from the 12th/13th century. We are able to see this because the temple has been left in the same condition it was found (for the most part; some work has been done to stabilize structures, make it safe for visiting, and enabling access). This uniqueness earned it a spot in UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites and rightly so!
The most famous trees growing through the structures are Tetrameles nudiflora, which is like a mouthful for a non-botanical person like me (so I had to look it up!). They create surreal images – and surely, if the trees were cut, many of the structures would collapse! These trees grow super tall and the roots look like the buttresses of pre-Renaissance European cathedrals and can be quite gigantic as one of my pictures shows. Banyan trees can also be found. These trees grow their roots downward from where the see landed (not directly on the ground but, say, on a tree or building) and they end up enveloping the “host” tree or structure, eventually seemingly strangling the host.
What to Know
- It will be hot and humid as the day progresses so starting with sunrise is ideal though it makes for a short sleep night…
- Visiting Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Ta Phrom, and a couple of other smaller sites, starting at sunrise, took us until noon/1 PM at our speed of walking, stopping to take photos, etc. That is quite a long day already considering hotel pick-up (for us anyway) was at 4:45 AM.
- Bring water, snack and sunblock!