Ta Prohm History
The Angkor Temple of Ta Prohm was built in the 12th and 13th century. Under the reign of Khmer King Jayarman II. The original name of Ta Prohm was Rajavihara (The Royal Monastery), as it was a Mahayana Buddhist Monastery. In the initial plan for Ta Prohm were 260 divinities called for, many were added later. In those times the outer area of the temple was inhabited with some 3140 villages and over 79.000 people who helped to maintain the whole area.
Unesco took Ta Prohm in its World Heritage List in 1992. This temple was for long being kept in its original state. The trees growing out through the ruins and its huge roots as arms around the temple buildings. It made it one of the most popular temples in Angkor. Especially after it got a part in the movie Tomb Raider with Angelina Jolie.
You enter from the east gate. A 500 meter long road with trees on both sides leads you up to a terrace. The gate and terrace have a history that has to do with Bodhisattva Lokesvara. Just before you enter the main temple complex, you see a small building which has mostly collapsed. By entering the main temple the first thing you notice are cranes and other equipment needed for restoring the temple or for protecting it from further collapse. The damage done by the Khmer Rouge was big, but the damage done by time is as equally big.
The damage and the state of which Ta Prohm is in as per May 2019 (and years to come) is almost shocking. As if nothing is ever done with the $100 million yearly ticket sales income or the hundreds of millions of from Unesco and all the individual countries who support the restoration and maintenance. Probably this is at least partly exactly the case.
There is just one walking route to follow nowadays for one big line of tourist. Partly out of protection for visitors of collapsing parts, partly as protection for the temples from tourists who think that they can lean on temples, hang on it, climb on it, take pics on it or even pee against it. The Lara Croft (Angelina Jolie) Tomb Raider movie spot from 2001 is hugely popular for pictures. The shooting was originally planned in China but complications moved it to the Ta Prohm Temple. It took days to get all equipment for shooting from Thailand overland to Siem Reap.
Paramount did the shooting with a lot of Cambodian crew and over 400 Cambodians had some kind of role in the movie. A 100 Buddhist monks were among them. Cambodian authorities charged $10.000 a day for shooting of which according to them, would return into the temples for preservation. The result of that so called promise can be seen in 2018/19, a dilapidated state. In that time in 2001 there were only two international hotels which got filled with cast and crew. On the menu of each bar you can find the Tomb Raider cocktail. A mix of cointreau, soda and lime. Angelina Jolie’s favorite drink during the film shoot.
Overall this is all nice to know and Ta Prohm is definitely a must see temple, but you might get out disappointed and you will certainly not be the only one. Reasons for that can be the bad state of the temple, the noise and mass tourism influences and the little space to move around because of that. A nice interesting happening might be the old lady who is blessing interested visitors with a chant and doing something around your wrist and where you can burn an incense for a small donation.