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. When you look for what else is there to see near Angkor Wat, or what to see when you visit Cambodia, Ta Prohm needs to be on your list!
I heard about Ta Prohm 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 pretty quickly. 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 built in the 12th/13th century. We are able to see this today because the temple has been left in the same condition it was found in (for the most part: some work has been done to stabilize the structures to make them safe for visiting and to enable access). The uniqueness of Ta Prohm 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 a veritable mouthful for a non-botanical person like me (so I had to look it up to make sure I got it right for this post!). These trees create surreal imagery – 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 around. These trees grow their roots downward from where the seed landed (not directly on the ground but, say, on a tree or building) and, as the seeds sprout, they grow and end up enveloping the “host” tree or structure, eventually seemingly strangling the host or destroying its host.
What to Know
- Yes, there is more to Siem Reap than Angkor Wat. So the visit to Angkor Wat should also include places like Ta Prohm that are close to it and well worth seeing. Keep reading, ask around, and create a great list!
- It will get more hot and humid as the day progresses so starting with sunrise is ideal to maximize exploring time with the least ‘suffering’ possible (though it is worth suffering to see these amazing places). Now, if diminishing suffering is a goal, know that it makes for a short night of sleep!
- Visiting Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Ta Phrom, and a couple of other smaller sites, starting at sunrise, took us until noon or 1 PM at our speed of walking, stopping to take photos, exploring, etc. That is quite a long day considering that the hotel pick-up (for us anyway) was at 4:45 AM. Pace yourself, be aware of how your body is handling the heat and humidity!
- Bring water, snack and sunblock.
- Take time to put the camera away and just stand there marveling at the architecture, looking down at the all-enveloping jungle that hid these places for centuries, and soak it all in!