Tomb Raiding at Ta Prohm

In Cambodia, Sights by Nick2 Comments

Ta Prohm is where you’ll find The Tree.

Meaning the massive, iconic silk cotton tree* from the movie Tomb Raider, starring Brad Pitt’s wife whatsername.

With all the Tomb Raider hype surrounding Ta Prohm, it’s easy to think there’s only one tree. But the reality is quite different—Ta Prohm is the temple the jungle doesn’t want to let go.

In fact, silk cottons* and strangler figs* cling to Ta Prohm like an ex-girlfriend with daddy issues. Their roots cascade down cracked stone roofs and walls, crushing the ancient temple in a loving, thousand-year embrace.

*The big trees (like the one pictured above) are either silk cotton or thitpok trees, and the smaller ones are strangler figs or golden apple trees. Don’t ask me. I had to check Wikipedia and apparently no botanists have ever visited Angkor Wat.

But anyway, they’re neat trees. Moving on.

Tomb Raider tree at Ta Prohm

The one, the only.

Tomb Raider was actually filmed at a handful of Angkorian temples, but the shots from Ta Prohm are the most faithful to reality.


Because you don’t need to add atmospheric fog, forgotten jungles or poison dart traps. Ta Prohm has all that and more right out of the box. It’s the complete package.

If the rest of the world looked half as interesting as Ta Prohm, Hollywood CGI might not even exist.

But like everything afflicted by Angelina Jolie’s Midas Touch, Ta Prohm (figuratively) turned to gold. Before, nobody wanted to visit this foliage-choked ruin in the middle of nowhere.

Now, you have to line up to get a shot of The Tree. Some people think they’re clever—they find secret vantage points on stumps and stones, desperately stretching for an extra inch above the crowd for the perfect shot of Angelina, er, the tree she stood next to.

But there’s no perfect shot. The perfect angle is directly next to you, where someone else is standing. If you take their spot, you’ll soon find that, no, the first place was better.

And then the sun is going down, and you leave with a few dozen photos of the same tree. And you missed all the other silk cotton trees because that’s The Tree and that other second-rate vegetation can go stand in somebody else’s pictures.

My point is, there are a lot of cool trees at Ta Prohm. Don’t throw a hissy fit if some sweaty Japanese geriatric is taking half an hour to line up his $2,000 camera. Walk around and enjoy yourself.


And before I forget—there are 2 ways to explore Ta Prohm. From the gate, you’ll be offered 2 choices, Indiana Jones-style. To the right, a leisurely stroll around the full complex, eventually ending with The Tree. To the left, untold riches…or certain doom.

Actually, the left path is a shortcut to The Tree. But the only people who take shortcuts at Angkor Wat are the same people who abuse small animals, and I know you don’t hate animals. Right?

Or do you? For more pictures of Ta Prohm, click here.


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