Architecture / Cambodia / History / Nature

Angkor’s Ta Prohm: Made by Man, Unmade by Nature

Jungle

A hot breeze rustles the jungle foliage, and birds flit about noiselessly. The jungle silence envelopes the ancient stonework, and even the normally chattering tour groups have lowered their voices.

Ta Prohm elicits that kind of response – quiet awe.

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Unlike the other temples in Angkor, Ta Prohm has been left in much the same condition it was found, overgrown with centuries-old kapok and banyon trees, strangler figs, and giant creeping vines. It has a haunted charm that conjures up post-apocalyptic images of the battle of man against nature.

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And in the case of this temple complex, there is no doubt that nature is winning. Thick, serpent-like tendrils of a 300 year-old kapok tree splitting a thick stone wall sends a clear message of who’s in charge.

Ta Prohm

Built by King Jayavarman VII in the mid-12th century, this large, sprawling monument was a tribute to his mother. And even by ancient Angkor standards it was a huge building project.

“It took 79,365 people to maintain the temple including 18 great priests, 2,740 officials, 2,202 assistants and 615 dancers. Among the property belonging to the temple was a set of golden dishes weighing more than 500 kilograms, 35 diamonds, 40,620 pearls, 4,540 precious stones, 876 veils from China, 512 silk beds and 523 parasols. Even considering that these numbers were probably exaggerated to glorify the king, Ta Prohm must have been an important and impressive monument.” Tourism Cambodia

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And don’t think that tourists are the only ones who think Ta Prohm is a spectacular location – Hollywood jumped on the bandwagon as well. Some of you may recognize it as one of sets for some of the suspenseful, eerie scenes from Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.

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James the Tomb Raider?

Angkor has an amazing variety of symbolically complex ruins, and like the kings that built them, they’re all very different. And every visitor has their favorite. But seeing an unrelenting jungle literally devouring intricately carved stone temples, created an otherworldly ambience that made it our favorite.

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Ta Prohm is an enduring testament to one ancient culture’s architecture and art, but it’s also an unmistakeable reminder that anything made by man, can be unmade by nature. If you visit Cambodia, don’t miss it.

Happy Trails,
James and Terri

P.S. The Tourism Cambodia website has detailed walking tour of the ruin.

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Photo Credit:
3. Jpatokal  via Wikimedia Commons

27 thoughts on “Angkor’s Ta Prohm: Made by Man, Unmade by Nature

  1. Agree. Despite all the powers than humans wield in reshaping the planet, mother earth demonstrates who is ultimately in charge. She claims back through nature’s forces!
    We thoroughly enjoyed the walk in Ta Prohm. No more words can describe it!

    • We had seen photos of Ta Prohm before visiting, but had no idea of the scale of the place and the amount of vegetation growing on the ruins. It’s unique in the world, and a fabulous place. ~James

    • Thanks Peta. We visited Ta Prohm after Angkor Wat and Thom, and that was a good order of things. After seeing the other two, it gave us a real appreciation for what Ta Prohm must have looked like in its past so we could appreciate even more what the jungle had done. It’s a wonderful, unique experience. ~James

      • Since then anytime we go anywhere that involves ruins and archaeological sites they all of course pale in comparison. That is a bit of a problem… but well worth the “suffering” haha
        Peta

  2. James the Tomb Raider. It has a lovely ring to it. Your description of serpent like growth of the trees is spot on. Seems like a slow motion horror film in action. Yes agreed this looks like one not to be missed.
    Wishing you both a happy holiday season ahead. Any special plans?

    • Sue, many of these roots and vines reminded me of pictures of those huge pythons and anacondas that show up online and on the Discovery Channel. Creepy but cool. And for reasons you and I discussed, we’ll be staying close to home for the holidays – which isn’t a bad thing. In our years as expats, we spent lots and lots of time on the road for the holidays, so now, if we can stay at home, we do. ~James

      • Wishing you both a special holiday season. May 2017 be full of joy, good health and travels. Such a pleasure to have found you here in the blogosphere those three years ago. My gratitude for your guidance in those days remains strong. All the very best from our house to yours.

      • Thanks so much Sue. Meeting you and discovering your blog has been a pleasure for us as well. It’s really nice to know other experienced bloggers who we can swap ideas and tales with. We wish you, Dave and your family all the best for the holidays as well as in the coming year. ~James

  3. James, yet another jaw dropping sight to see! Isn’t nature remarkable! Agreed, the roots & vines look a little creepy but wow, just wow!

    Wishing you & Terri a very Merry Christmas!

    • Thanks Lynn. Ta Prohm is wonderful, and I know of no other place quite like it in the world. In addition to fascinating art and architecture, it has a mystique that’s evocative of “Jungle Book,” with Sher Khan and all his pals. And a Happy Holiday to you as well. ~James

  4. Your photos are fantastic. We were there in February of 2013, and you managed to perfectly capture its mystery and beauty. It was fun returning, via your photos.

    • We were laughing about that too, Susan. It was so hot that day – we were literally drenched when we got back to the hotel. A few snowflakes would have been a welcome relief. ~Terri

  5. I visited Cambodia in November and Ta Prohm was definitely a favorite! Thank you for this beautiful post. It puts words and pictures to an experience I haven’t been able to explain well to family and friends at home.

    • Thanks for the comment C/K, and for dropping by the blog. As you know, given its size and the number of ruins, Angkor isn’t just another archaeological site. And as you point out, its uniqueness makes it hard to explain to someone who hasn’t been there. It’s art and architecture are a testament to some of the good things that empires can achieve (at someone else’s expense of course). Every traveler should see Angkor, and hopefully, our series of posts will encourage some newbies to visit. Best of luck in the new year. ~James

    • Thanks for the comment and for dropping by the blog. I’ve often wondered what officials will do when the vegetation really does start to totally destroy the ruins. I’m sure there will be some type of intervention, because Angkor is a major cash cow for Cambodia. ~James

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