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Ta Prohm – The Royal Monastery – Siem Reap, Cambodia

Ta Prohm is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Siem Reap, Cambodia because of its fascinating gigantic trees that have grown out of its temples. The site gained greater prominence after it was used as a location in the box office hit movie Tomb Raider. Its scenery of abandoned ancient temples that are entangled by colossal tree roots is quite enchanting.

Ta Prohm Giant Tree - Siem Reap, Cambodia
Ta Prohm – Siem Reap, Cambodia

This magnificent Buddhist monastery has different buildings because it was also used as a university. The wonderful design of its ancient buildings is an architectural marvel of its era. Their antiquity was greatly magnified by the trees that are intertwined to their bodies. A tour around this magnificent site is simply surreal.

A majestic ancient temple in Ta Prohm - Siem Reap, Cambodia
A majestic ancient temple
Big blocks at Ta Prohm - Siem Reap, Cambodia
A big pile of collapsed blocks


History of Ta Prohm

This Buddhist monastery was constructed in the late 12th to the early 13th century under the reign of King Jayavarman VII. It was originally known as Rajavihara which means The Royal Monastery before its name was changed to Ta Prohm which means Ancestor Brahma. This site was abandoned for centuries after the fall of the Khmer Empire in the 15th century.

Collapsed roof in Ta Prohm, - Siem Reap, Cambodia
A ruin with a collapsed roof
Renovation in Ta Prohm, - Siem Reap, Cambodia
A temple being renovated in Ta Prohm

This monastery was dedicated by the king to the Mahayana Buddhism concept “Prajnaparamita” which means perfection of wisdom. Since Prajnaparamita was also known as the “Great Mother,” the king created a female statue that personifies this concept. The said statue was known to have been based on the image of King Jayavarman VII’s mother.

Creative carvings in Ta Prohm, - Siem Reap, Cambodia
Artistic bas-relief in Ta Prohm


Exploring Ta Prohm

There was a big crowd of tourists when we entered the Ta Prohm complex which was a complete opposite in Banteay Kdei. It was pleasant to see that the visitors here can enjoy a cultural show by Cambodian musicians. There were several vendors as well that are taking advantage of the crowded situation.

Ta Prohm's entrance - Siem Reap, Cambodia
Entrance to Ta Prohm

Humunguous trees can be seen from afar of this abandoned site. Centuries of desolation allowed the trees to flourish and grow to their current size. This unexpectedly resulted in a magnificent sight of nature that’s interweaving with man-made structures. From being neglected, people are now lining up to visit this complex just to witness the product of its bizarre phenomenon.

Tourists of Ta Prohm - Siem Reap, Cambodia
There are more tourists here
Large trees at Ta Prohm - Siem Reap, Cambodia
These walls are getting consumed by the trees


Most Popular Spot

It took some time before we got our chance to get a picture of the most popular section of the temple because of the number of tourists lined up. The large roots of the tree that crawled at the center of the temple seems like something you’ll see in fantasy movies. It’s amazing how the roof was able to hold its weight. I remember seeing this in the movie Tomb Raider and it was really great to finally see it in person.

Tourists lining up in Ta Prohm's best spot - Siem Reap, Cambodia
Best spot in Ta Prohm
Ta Prohm's temple renovation - Siem Reap, Cambodia
Ongoing renovation in front of the popular spot in Ta Prohm

It looked like a Kraken that entangled its tentacles on a ship. My initial impression is that it was a tree that grew beside the temple. Observing it further gave me the idea that perhaps a small bird left a seed on top of its soiled roof. The seed eventually grew that’s why its roots scattered on the roof until they reached the ground. This tree also look like a poured gooey liquid that splattered then got frozen instantly.

Kraken like roots of Ta Prohm
Release the Kraken!


More Trees on Structures

At first, we thought that it was just one lucky structure that got crawled on by a tree. But after doing a short exploration, we were surprised to see more—especially on its walls! There’s quite a number of them that they looked like tree monsters wresting with stone golems. Some of the structures were already bent or cracked by these outrageously large trees but it’s great to see that they didn’t collapse—not yet.

Tree cracking a temple at Ta Prohm - Siem Reap, Cambodia
Hand of a tree monster grabbing the temple
Giant tree monster's foot at Ta Prohm - Siem Reap Cambodia
The foot of the giant tree monster


Ruins of Ta Prohm

The abandoned structures here look very much similar to the nearby Banteay Kdei. The signature Bayon architecture can easily get spotted because of the tower and concrete roof style. What I found unique is the bas-reliefs’ style and depiction of the figures of devata and deities. This is the only temple where we’ve seen a bas-relief depiction of lions and horses. The beauty of these Cambodian artworks is amusing as always.

Roofless ancient temple in Ta Prohm - Siem Reap, Cambodia
Roofless ancient temple in the jungle
Fallen branch at Ta Prohm - Siem Reap, Cambodia
Far from getting hit by that big branch
Ancient art at Ta Prohm - Siem Reap, Cambodia
Wonderful ancient art

This site has all the right elements that really make a place enchanted and ancient. Your journey to the past in this complex will take you somewhere extraordinary that’s way beyond vintage.

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