Cambodia // Siem Reap and the temples of Angkor //

Ta Prohm

The jungle-smothered ruins of TA PROHM are one of the most evocative of all Angkor’s ancient monuments – its courtyards and terraces half-consumed by the encroaching forest, with shrines and pavilions engulfed by giant strangler figs and the massive roots of kapok trees clinging to walls, framing doorways and prising apart giant stones. The temple richly fulfils every Indiana Jones-cum-Tomb Raiderish romantic cliché you could possibly imagine – a uniquely serendipitous combination of human artifice and raw nature working together in accidental harmony, with impossibly picturesque results.

That, at least, is what the films and photographs suggest – the reality is slightly less romantic. Crowds are a serious problem, while massive ongoing restoration means that parts of the temple currently resemble an enormous building site as conservationists attempt to walk the impossible tightrope between preserving Ta Prohm’s original lost-in-the-jungle atmosphere while preventing it from being obliterated entirely by the surrounding forest. It’s a magical place, even so, assuming you’re not expecting to be left alone to commune with nature, and especially if you can time your visit to avoid the worst of the coach parties (see Crowds at Ta Prohm).

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