Heritage Travel, Historic Preservation, Monday Musings
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The appealing mysteries of Ta Prohm

Our tour group arrived early one morning to the late 12th-century Ta Prohm temple, one of the best known of the Angkor sites in Cambodia, thanks to the overgrowth of trees hundreds of years old that have come to coexist with the temple ruins.

Unlike most Angkorian temples, Ta Prohm is in much the same condition in which it was found: the photogenic and atmospheric combination of trees growing out of the ruins and the jungle surroundings have made it one of Angkor’s most popular temples with visitors.

UNESCO inscribed Ta Prohm on the World Heritage List in 1992. It is a photographer’s paradise, and we were fortunate to be at this very popular site with only a few additional visitors, including a small group of Buddhist monks.

Without any further commentary (except for a short note about the trees), enjoy these images I took on another beautiful Cambodian morning.

Our first view of the temple
An interior wall, leading to the center court of the temple
Trees and ruins coexist

The trees growing out of the ruins are perhaps the most distinctive feature of Ta Prohm, and “have prompted more writers to descriptive excess than any other feature of Angkor.” Two species predominate, but sources disagree on their identification: the larger is either the silk-cotton tree (Ceiba pentandra) or thitpok Tetrameles nudiflora, and the smaller is either the strangler fig (Ficus gibbosa) or gold apple (Diospyros decandra). Angkor scholar Maurice Glaize observed, “On every side, in fantastic over-scale, the trunks of the silk-cotton trees soar skywards under a shadowy green canopy, their long spreading skirts trailing the ground and their endless roots coiling more like reptiles than plants.”

Three young Buddhist boys at the temple, attesting to the spiritual power of the ruins
View down a temple hallway
A temple tower sits amidst the jungle
Looking heavenward from inside a small room in the temple
Detail of a temple tower
But the eye always seems to return to the trees

How wonderful to experience the atmospheric combination of trees, ruins, and jungle in a way that invites one to stop and ponder — in a unique and powerful setting — the relationship of humankind with nature.

A true treasure, and an opportunity not to be missed in the fascinating landscape of Southeast Asia.

More to come…


All images by DJB


I am David J. Brown (hence the DJB) and I originally created this personal blog more than ten years ago as a way to capture photos and memories from a family vacation. After the trip was over I simply continued writing. Over the years the blog has changed to have a more definite focus aligned with my interest in places that matter, reading well, roots music, and more. My professional background is as a national nonprofit leader with a four-decade record of growing and strengthening organizations at local, state, and national levels. This work has been driven by my passion for connecting people in thriving, sustainable, and vibrant communities.


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