The beyond beautiful Ta Phrom Temple

by FieryTree on September 23, 2013 · 6 comments

Post image for The beyond beautiful Ta Phrom Temple

I heard some feedback that the pictures from my last post were hard to look at. I feel that way too. I was going to complete the other post about the Genocide Center but I feel it better to break it up with a little beauty first. This temple was on my mind at that Center too so best to introduce it!

Ta Prohm, is my most favorite Temple (anywhere), to date. Located in Siem Reap, Cambodia, it was built in 1186AD (1186!!) by King Jayavarman VII for his mother. The original name was “Rajavihara” which means ‘the royal monastery’ and true to that it was a temple monastery, with a school to teach Buddhism.

I’d been talking about seeing Angkor Wat since we left Florida but the images that I fell in love with were actually for Ta Prohm. Angkor Wat is cool but Ta Prohm has my heart. It is so beautiful green and full of life.

Entrance to Ta Prohm

Entrance to Ta Prohm (James’ pic)

I fell in love with the temple because of its truly incredible trees that soar into the air. We only had to walk down the Eastern path to see the first one. Where there were windows and doors into the temple, the root structure of the tree could not be seen and it appeared to just levitate above the temple. Our guide said the tree was 250 years old. To its right was another tree that unfortunately had died and was hollow inside. I found shapes in the trunk that reminded me of monkeys (still not cured from monkey brain after Krabi – see them?)

Monkeys! Do you see them?

Monkeys! Do you see them?

We entered the temple and had a beautiful view of the root system of the levitating tree, which was very securely attached to the temple. In the 19th Century, the decision had been made to leave the temple in a closer state to how it had been “found”, with these amazing trees. This is a gorgeous blessing and slow curse, since the trees are so intertwined with the ruins. If the tree dies or is hit by lightning, it can cause part of the temple to also collapse. The rumor is that the trees are injected with vitamins to extend their life. They are truly what make this temple.

My levitating tree

My levitating tree

There are two primary trees that dominate the temples, a “spung”, as our guide called it (or silk-cotton tree) and a familiar tree to me, a strangler fig. The smaller roots that decorate the well known door that gave Ta Prohm it’s nickname “Tomb Raider Temple” are from the strangler fig. The height is provided by the silk-cotton tree. Unfortunately, the strangler fig doesn’t just have a clever name and typically kills it’s host, as it takes it over.

Great example of strangler fig (James' pic)

Silk Cotton and Strangler fig (James’ pic)

I loved the trees but the ruins also held me captivated. We’d toured three other temples that day and the rest of them were in a pretty good state of restoration. Ta Prohm with hallways still in shambles and piles of rock everywhere was fascinating to me. We went back a second day for more time to wander alone without a guide. All told, I took about 200 pictures at this Temple.

Right half of the hallway.

Wonderful rubble

Beautiful carvings also adorned the walls. Below is an Apsara, who our guide explained were 18-23 year olds at the palace that danced for the royalty. They were described as beautiful and “perfect”. It is still a compliment today to call a woman an ‘Apsara’. Shows were available to see examples of Apsara’s dancing but we missed it. (Guess we have to go back!) Also noteworthy, is the coloring on the walls is from various moss growing.

Apsala design on wall.

Apsara design on wall.

On each visits too, I received bracelets from a “monk” (although female) who would say a little prayer as she tied the bracelet on my wrist then tap my wrist lightly. They would ask you to pray to the Buddha and I did intone a prayer of thanks to see such incredible sites. With each bracelet, I gave a small donation. At this Temple, each time, the “monk” gave me a set of  two bracelets, so leaving Siem Reap, I had 10 bracelets in total (two from Thailand). James seemed to smirk at my continually getting bracelets but I liked it for the physical connection it created to the temples. I also enjoyed the experience and seeing how each of the “monks” would say the prayer, some quick, some loud, some quiet, some not at all! It was a nice moment to be quiet and reflect too.

"Monk" who gave me a little bracelet with a prayer.

“Monk” who gave me a little bracelet with a prayer.

The temple has been under construction with a grant from India for the last couple of years. They estimated five years for the reconstruction. Sooo, I will definitely be going back. I just hope they don’t lose too much of the rubble.

The wonderful rubble!

The wonderful rubble!

More pics of the beautiful temple:

 What is your favorite beautiful site?

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Alfred Kausel September 23, 2013 at 11:51 pm

Hello Maria,

Thank you for the great pictures!. It sure beats writing HLRs.

In theory the roots are slowly penetrating the rocks of the construction and eventually could have the potential to crack them. Did the guides mentioned anything like this? It is also interesting that some of the older figures may have features that look ethnically different from the current inhabitants. It is hard to tell from the pics.



2 FieryTree September 27, 2013 at 10:13 pm

Yes, they certainly did mention about the roots, I commented on that in the post along with the rumor of them feeding the trees vitamins to keep them going.
It certainly is better than HLRs.
I couldn’t say about the features looking different from the current inhabitants, most had been warn away with so many years, that I wouldn’t be able to speak to distinct characteristics. An interesting thought though. It is pretty amazing what they were able to accomplish with just people and elephants!


3 Karen September 25, 2013 at 6:38 am


How can I pick a favorite site from all the photos that you have posted? They are all so amazing. I do love nature in all its beauty, so I do love the beautiful tree roots hugging each structure. You can feel the power! Your mom would absolutely love to go and see all this in person! I hope that she gets the opportunity.



4 FieryTree September 27, 2013 at 10:14 pm

Yes, those trees were completely incredible! I can’t wait to go and see them again in the future. I think Luke would love to see it too. I hope they can both visit!


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