06 Feb2009

Ta Prohm, Siem Reap

by Marketman


A smaller but nonetheless spectacular temple is the monastic complex of Ta Prohm, with several humongous trees left uncleared as they grow on and around the stone temple. There are several wonderful photos to be had in this temple, with carvings peaking out through tree roots, dark corridors lit by sunlight from particular angles, and trees, trees, trees…


The site of scenes for the movie Tomb Raider with Angelina Jolie, you can kick your way silly emerging from the nooks and crannies of this temple through roots and jungle growth.


A small moat or pond out front looked like an ideal breeding ground for millions of mosquitoes, but with huge trees nearby, moss and rubble, it was actually a bit creepy in broad daylight…


It was interesting to see the trees that were left uncut, but I suspect they will eventually damage the temple, so I am not sure why conservationists have decided to take this approach. The temples were covered in forests for hundreds of years so maybe they feel the damage done is too slow to justify cutting away some of these 200+ feet tall trees.


Impressive trees near a temple wall were really rather awe-inspiring. If you look carefully at the photo above, there are people in the lower left side of the photo, and you will better appreciate how large the trees really are!


The guidebooks write that this temple complex was home to buddhist monks and I can see how it is of a less grand and more “homey” scale than other temples where nearby villagers would go to worship…


How these temples were constructed, with stones from hundreds of miles away, and without modern cranes and mechanized lifts, is a wonder in and off itself.


The structures were wonderful, but if I was to live there, I would need some soft furnishings, you know what I mean? Drapes, couches and some high-thread count sheets at the very least… But then again, I doubt if I would last more than a few days as a monk-in-training.


A final thought. They must not have typhoons in Cambodia as trees such as this one wouldn’t last a couple of hundred years and grow this large…



  1. menggay says:

    This might explain why the trees are not being cut down:
    “A Buddhist monk is prohibited from cutting down a tree or having a tree cut down not only because it has life but because it could also be the abode of a deity. The Vinaya Pitaka, the Book of the Discipline, which lays down rules for the proper behaviour of monks, states specifically that there is an offence of expiation, pacittiya, for the destruction of vegetable growth, by which is meant five different kinds of propagation: what is propagated from roots, from stems, from joints, from cuttings and from seeds.” — from Soba Environmental Publication
    The bodhi tree forms an integral part of Buddhist ritual because of its association with the life of the Buddha and thus of its magic. Buddhists believe that this tree possesses magical powers which no other tree in the world possesses.”

    Feb 6, 2009 | 1:43 am


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  3. Maria Clara says:

    When time comes for the conservationist to decide which one to keep they have to flip the coin or pull a straw – the trees or temple. Amazing how the trees kept undisturbed and let mother nature do her work ate up the temple with their root growth. Yes, I can see the people on the left side of the temple. They look like dwarfs in Cinderella’s spooky castle which I believe will be a good venue for Halloween Party!

    Feb 6, 2009 | 1:56 am

  4. sonia says:

    think of all the manpower — and literally blood, sweat and tears — required to build these temples, or any similar structures (pyramids, aztec temples) in the world. the philippines does not have anything similar. do we take comfort that our ancestors had a more benign time?
    wonderful photos — but after 3-4 temples don’t you suffer from temple fatigue? i did!

    Feb 6, 2009 | 5:23 am

  5. Marketman says:

    sonia, we have the rice terraces, which are a tremendous engineering feat and incredibly old as well. If preservered and maintained and viewing of which properly managed, I would put it up against many major “monuments” or temple complexes around the world… temple fatigue, definitely. Just like I can only spend a few hours in a museum per day… :)

    Feb 6, 2009 | 6:17 am

  6. Raneli says:

    Thank you for sharing your travel adventures with us. My husband and I are hoping to visit Cambodia one day. Yes, I agree with you that our country has also so much to offer in terms of monuments and natural wonders-its just that maintenance and property management need to be vastly improved. Sadly, thats where we loose points.

    Feb 6, 2009 | 6:46 am

  7. Eina says:

    That first photo made me do a double take. I thought you’d managed to photograph a ghost.

    Feb 6, 2009 | 6:59 am

  8. mdg says:

    a real wonder of nature! It’s a fact that all places has its own story to tell. amazing but a lil creepy.

    Feb 6, 2009 | 8:26 am

  9. risa says:

    Sonia, I had been asking myself the same thing.

    I got this explanation from Carlos Celdran’s walking tour. He said that unlike Cambodia and Vietnam, the Philippines does not have rock or stone readily available during the pre hispanic times to create such structures. What was readily available was adobe (essentially compressed volcanic ash) which unfortunately is not earthquake resistant.

    He said the first stone structures that we did have made use of piedra china, which curiously, loosely means “stone from china.”

    I heartily recommend his walking tours. :)

    Feb 6, 2009 | 8:47 am

  10. bernadette says:

    I really appreciate your travel notes, MM! Our nearby rainforest has the same huge trees…well, perhaps they’re not as numerous as Cambodia’s or other Buddhist countries. Menggay’s comment is quite interesting for me…and as an advocate for our rainforests’ conservation here, I just wish a huge Buddhist population would live here!…and convert the locals even.

    Feb 6, 2009 | 9:18 am

  11. allen says:

    The first photo looks like “Grandmother Willow” from Pocahontas! :)

    Feb 6, 2009 | 3:27 pm

  12. Katrina says:

    “They must not have typhoons in Cambodia as trees such as this one wouldn’t last a couple of hundred years”

    I remember my parents telling me that one of the reasons Thailand has much better fruits than we do (with the notable exception of the mango, of course) is that they generally don’t get hit by bad typhoons, so the trees are less “stressed.” If true, then it must be the same for Cambodia, being in the same region.

    Feb 6, 2009 | 4:55 pm

  13. pecorino1 says:

    Our Cambodian guide told us that big storms do bring down some of those trees; every year a part of the temples get destroyed this way. Also, most of those gigantic trees are Kapok trees which is very bad news because they live to only a couple of hundred years at most. They will eventually topple over from old age bringing down yet another precious temple section. We were told that cutting down the trees now would also eventually result in the death of the trees and damage to the buildings.

    Strange how these beautiful trees that have made these temples so mystical have also condemned them to eventual destruction.

    Feb 6, 2009 | 6:31 pm

  14. Rona Y says:

    I think we were in Siem Reap at the same time! Funny, since my mother is always on the look out for other Filipinos (most of those we saw were Filipino women married to European men…).

    Regarding typhoons, I think since they pass over the Pacific Ocean, countries that are most badly affected have huge coastlines–the Philippines, Japan, the eastern part of China, etc. etc. That would explain why countries like Thailand (which has a coastline that’s mostly protected) and Cambodia have much less typhoon damage.

    We were told Ta Prohm was left largely as-is, in the condition in which it was found, to give visitors a taste of the romanticism they expect from the temples–you know, that feeling as though their eyes were the first to spy the stone ruins. I was actually quite surprised when I saw how much work was being done at the temple (the completed construction of the “stage” in front of the most famous tree, for example).

    By the way, Maurice Glaize’s 1944 guide to the temples notes that “5 tons of gold plates, 512 silk beds and 523 parasols” were used at Ta Prohm. Think that would have been comfortable enough for you? ;-)

    Feb 6, 2009 | 7:19 pm

  15. Marketman says:

    Rona, can you imagine washing the gold plates, they would be really heavy! But the silk beds sound a bit OTT for the monks, no? And how on earth did they figure out the parasol count? :)

    Feb 6, 2009 | 9:08 pm

  16. Lava Bien says:

    Yo MM!

    Saw you on the video in the Travel Channel website (look under videos then Anthony Bourdain), they showed you for a brief second or two as a teaser.

    can’t wait, Feb. 16th it is!

    Feb 6, 2009 | 9:09 pm

  17. marissewalangkaparis says:

    Photos are awesome….

    Feb 6, 2009 | 11:24 pm

  18. aggy says:

    greetings from chicago! thanks for sharing these wonderful pics…hope i can visit someday…have a great weekend!

    Feb 7, 2009 | 7:33 am

  19. Edwin D. says:

    MM,a true great photgrapher. An eye for the arts.

    Feb 7, 2009 | 11:25 am

  20. kulasa says:

    Great photos.

    The gigantic roots looks beautiful and eerie at the same time. The temple looks mystical. I had to look twice at the top photo. Compeling!

    Feb 7, 2009 | 11:53 am

  21. Juriz says:

    My friends and I went to Siem Reap last summer. It was a very memorable trip for all of us. We started out in Bangkok, took a bus to the border to visit Cambodia.

    From a documentary that we saw from the DVD collection of the small Inn that we stayed in, the reason the trees were preserved along with the temples is for humans to be reminded that there is an on-going battle between man and nature over the right to own the earth. Man had to take down a lot of trees to erect buildings, houses, temples, etc. But with the outcome of a once glorious civilization like Angkor in Cambodia, nature will soon get back on man.

    Feb 7, 2009 | 1:39 pm


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