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Ta Prohm & Preah Khan

Ta Prohm, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Ta Prohm, Siem Reap

Definitely our favorites, since both are jungle temples partially overgrown with trees! Their giant roots embrace walls, bring them down, pry them apart or keep them from collapsing.

Ta Prohm was a huge monastic complex that has been only to some extent cleared from jungle overgrowth, a decision made by conservationists who wanted visitors to have an idea of what these temples looked like when they were first discovered by Europeans. Nobody back then could anticipate the huge number of tourists who would wander through this place. So this immense influx eventually required the installation of wooden walkways which are unfortunately distracting a bit from the “jungle atmosphere”.

The most impressive sights are the giant fig trees and silk wood trees that cradle entire buildings. Often they just sit on top of a Gopura, the elaborate entrance of an enclosing wall. We constantly wondered why those have not collapsed under the immense weight.

Preah Khan is a similar big complex like Ta Prohm, full of carvings, passages and corridors. But Preah Khan was much more than a monastery. With over 1.000 teachers, it appears to have been a Buddhist university and a considerable sized city. Again, we entered through a causeway guarded by gods and demons holding a snake, proud to eventually recognize and identify these common features of classical Khmer architecture. This is why one building with round columns really caught our eye. The answer to this puzzle: it was added later!

Again we enjoyed these two sites more than most others, because we often felt like those early explorers. Ta Prohm is by now on the itinerary of most tour groups, so early morning or late afternoon is the best time to visit. Preah Khan is less visited but the light for photographing seems to be better in the afternoon.


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