Ta Prohm was made popular because of Angelina Jolie’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider movie. In fact, Ta Prohm is commonly referred to in Siem Reap as “the Lara Croft” temple. When I did further research, I later learned Ta Prohm is not just significant because it was used as a backdrop for Angelina Jolie’s movie nor because of the popular photo of the roots of a huge tree taking over part of the complex. Ta Prohm is not a temple.
Ta Prohm was built as a center for learning. According to a National Geographic article, at one point, more than 12,000 people serviced Ta Prohm. Much of Ta Prohm has been eaten by trees. We saw many rocks numbered, probably for rehabilitation purposes, but these rocks too have been eaten by moss. I find the walk from one end of Ta Prohm to another cooling and relatively more relaxed than the walk around Angkor Wat. The large trees give you the needed shelter, but still be prepared to walk along designated paths, and do not stray away — to the jungle for you might step on a landmine or to a pile of numbered rocks for you might be buried alive by heavy slabs of stones.
The Ta Prohm complex may not be as magnificent as the Angkor Wat, but it has its own charms. Take your time to look into the finer details of the temple because I found that many have been left intact by colonizers, looters and tourists, probably because this complex was not as visited as Angkor Wat? Atlas Obscura has an interesting article on a dinosaur-like carving in Ta Prohm. Because Ta Prohm was a center for learning, it should not surprising that there are many to things to learn from in this complex. Sadly, like Angkor Wat, there are no artifacts on display that might make a visit more in-depth.
Nearing the end of our walk to the other gate where our guide/driver is waiting, we listened a bit to Khmer music performed by victims of exploding landmines. Sometimes, traveling can be a painful experience. I get used to the comfort of our tiny apartment, minding my own business, and when I go out into the world, I get exposed to other people’s difficulties and I wonder what I am doing in my tiny hole.
After getting out of the complex, I was met by a teenage boy who was selling books. I have read in advanced that peddlers in Cambodia can get pushy and this boy was particularly very pushy. I was interested in the book but I can see that it was a cheap reprint (which, for me, disrespects the author), and held the book for a while before putting it back to the boy’s arms. The boy could have won me over and I would have gladly gave him my $5 (which is not too much actually but I didn’t want to buy a cheap reproduction) to end confrontation. I was on the verge of tears — not because I got frustrated by the boy’s aggressiveness — but because I realized it was a Friday, he was supposed to be in school, he was wearing thin slippers and has no sales under the mid day sun. At age 15, on a Friday in August, I was in school, probably laughing with my girl friends over high school crushes. I was not peddling reproduction books. I was on the verge of tears and the boy would have won me over. But I drank a bottle of ice cold water, and turned around.
Ta Prohm was a center for learning, and in that short walk, I have learned many things. We have different experiences in life. Some can be soft, some can be pushy. But I learned we can always be compassionate, respectful, without fully understanding.