If this looks like a bunch of rubble and chaos, well, you’re right. But I love this photograph, so take a closer look.
A couple weeks ago I wrote that Bayon was one of my favourite temples in the Angkor Complex, but Ta Prohm, often referred to as the Tomb Raider temple, was a close runner up for beauty.
After the Khmer empire fell in the 17th century, many temples were abandoned and left behind for nature to do with them as it pleased. Ta Prohm was consumed by jungle, its rooftops covered in seedlings carried there by wind or bird, and what resulted was nothing short of an art form: giant cotton and fig trees sprouting from the temple roofs, their roots slithering through the small crevices in its foundation, cascading down its walls, strangling it into ruin.
Now, held together by those very roots, Ta Prohm is in a sensitive position – allowing the growth to continue will result in the trees ripping apart the stone, but removing the trees will tear the building apart. Ironically, it is the trees that add so heavily to Ta Prohm’s magical appeal, the aspect that tourists remember best.
Luckily, restoration has been in the works for a couple of years now – a collaboration between APSARA (the Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap) and the Archaeological Survey of India for conservation of the temple…and the trees.
Stay tuned for more photos of Ta Prohm and the rest of the Angkor Archaeological Park coming soon!