We only know we’ve arrived at Ta Prohm Temple, the next destination on our visit to the Angkor Archaeological Park, when we see the empty expanse of gravel out before us and realize that it is a parking lot – with no cars in it. Along one side are the usual vendor stalls with a few vendors milling about and a crowd of children playing. Mr. Sim, our tuk-tuk driver, points and tells us “go in through the east gate. I pick you up at the west”.
We walk on, showing our Park passes to the thoroughly disinterested guard and continue down a wide path in the forest. Suddenly, before us, an apparition in stone appears. Unlike Angkor Wat, which is epic in proportions and has been cleared of the encroaching forest, or temple mountain of Bayon, Ta Prohm is like a mist entangled with a forest. There is shape and form to the temple still, but we understand why this is more quintessentially a “ruins”.
Maybe it is unfortunate that the aptly named Strangler Figs are conquering the fortress that was Ta Prohm, but without a doubt it provides a majestically atmospheric location. The temple is currently under care of the Cambodian Authority APSARA and the Archaeological Survey of India. One hopes that they are able to preserve the delicate balance of atmosphere and preservation.
After circling around….and around…we finally found the “Tomb Raider” location. By now, there were a number of other visitors around, yet we were still fortunate enough to sneak in and get some pictures while there was a lull in the crowd. By now it is almost 9am and we are starting to be drenched in sweat. By unanimous vote, it’s time to find Mr. Sim!