Angkor Wat may be the most known of the temples, but there are dozens of others within the complex in Siem Reap worth exploring. Following our sunrise and post-breakfast visits to the main attraction, our Semester at Sea group went to what is likely the second most famous of the local sites: Ta Prohm.
Well, if you’ve seen Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, it should as this was the filming location for much of the movie. Ta Prohm also is (allegedly) the most written-about temple, inspiring hundreds of writers to wax poetic about its beauty.
While Angelina Jolie may have put Ta Prohm on the map among Americans—after the movie came out, the number of U.S. tourists in Cambodia rose from minimal to 20% of all annual visitors—it isn’t just popular for its place on the silver screen, but rather the jungle (more specifically, silk cotton trees) that grows up through it. (Side note: The amount of Americans will only increase, too, when the new international airport in Siem Reap opens in a few years with several direct flights from the States.)
I will admit: It is pretty cool, especially when you think that this temple has been around since the 12th century and little has changed (other than, I imagine, the trees have gotten taller).
(Though that said, the government has started some restoration work in 2010 on Ta Prohm, including clearing out much of the shrubbery and potentially rebuilding the temple from scratch.)
The only problem is that Ta Prohm was even more packed than Angkor Wat, so taking photos without hordes of tourists in your shot proves pretty difficult—you’ve got to be quick on the draw.
We milled about for an hour—one of the best things about Ta Prohm is that it’s well shaded, thanks to all that foliage—then, it was onward to the next temple!
While we were off enjoying Cambodia’s ancient sites, many of our ship friends were lounging on the white sand beaches of Southeast Asia. It was tempting to join them, but we chose culture over fun in the sun as we knew we had a vacation rental in Costa Rica (just five days from now!) waiting for us down the line.