Friday, March 25, 2011 at 09.30 am after visiting Angkor Wat, Nom Rin my guide, took me to the temple of Ta Prohm. The temple became famous as the location of the filming of Tom Raider with Angelina Jolly as Lara Croft, or maybe Tom Raider became famous because the film was taken at the Ta Prohm site?
Only about 15 minutes from Angkor Wat, we entered the location of Ta Prohm, (Ta = old wise man, Prohm = temple). This Buddhist temple is very famous for its dozens of Spung trees growing above its old walls. The Spung trees have already been there for hundreds of years lending an impression of being exotic, dramatic and mystical at the same time.
Ta Phrom temple is located one kilometer from the ancient city of Angkor Tom. The temple was built by King Jayawarman VII as a Mahayana Buddhist monastery and university. The main picture on the temple is Prajnyaparamita as the goddess of wisdom, which is modeled by the mother of the King.
Unlike most temples at Angkor area, Ta Prohm is left the same condition when found. The Spung trees that grow above the ruins of temples of Ta Phrom makes this temple the most popular for tourists.
Rin Nom and I, entered through the gate and through a hallway lined with trees Spung. From a distance we looked the front side of the temple is overgrown with Spung trees. A Spung tree stands and looks solid with its roots gripping the ruins of the temple stones. For a moment I was stunned, so it is true that image? The scenery in front of me making me hardly to believe it. That must have been happening for decades, even centuries.
Moving into the temple, more Spung trees is growing above the ruins of the temple, and temple walls, with roots protruding greater than man’s body. Groups of tourists mostly come from China and Japan, and all busy taking photos. It’s really hard to find a pause, in order to get photos without tourists in front of it.
One of Ta Prohm entrance gate, covered by Spung roots,looks very exotic, mystical and dramatic. The view was incredible! Suddenly I know and understand why Spung trees allowed to remain so, and not cleared up from the walls of the ruins of Ta Prhom. There’s even an old tree Spung which very tall and it cannot withstand the load of it stems and leaves. This tree saved by the steel rods embedded in concrete platform.
There is not so much seen in Ta Prohm, but the Spung realyb incredible. The temple collapsed nearly 60 percent. Some restoration efforts are underway. Dozens or hundreds of stones marked before replaced. The entrance is restored according to original drawings. There is a gate that is still under reparation, construction and being rebuilt. It seem like quite difficult, take a lot of skill, patience and it must be costly. But it seems very well managed in the last old century.
HISTORY OF TA PROHM
Ta Prohm was built during King Jayawarwan to VII in 1186 was dedicated to The King parents. Originally named Rajavihara and adjoining tomb built for his mother. The tomb is historically, coated with bronze, decorated with hundreds of stones ruby, emerald and diamond embedded in the walls.
The drawings and note at the stone relics of the temple is inhabited mentioned more than 12.500 people, including 18 high priests, 2,200 monks and 615 dancers. King Jayawarman II ordered a community consisting of thousands of people to take care of Ta Prohm is. All activities carried out starting from religious activities, maintaining the temple and prepare the food supply. In the development time, the monks and the dancers must be separated. Because you should not put sugar ants near it, right? King Jayawarman the VII well known as King of the famous “Monument Builders” there is 15-20 temples built in his time, no other king who can do that at that time.
Ta Prohm was found in 1947 by researchers from France. When he found, the temple covered with the Spung trees growing all around the temple. The Spung stay there for more than 200 years and keep gowing up to know. Spung trees grew all around the temple, on rock temple, covered temple gates and overlap one to another.
During the rise of Hindu, Ta Prohm destroyed by the King Jayawarman VII successor. He ordered to remove all the Buddhist symbol of the walls of Ta Prohm. Some of the walls were destroyed by elephants. Ta Prohm was experiencing destruction. Rin Nom also mentioned that during wartime, people took the iron in the temple walls, taken as a weapon. It makes several temples including Ta Prohm collapsed and shattered.
Time passed quickly, at 12 noon I had been at the airport because my flight will fly back to Saigon at 14.00. After a while, we rushed out. we still have another temple to visit. Actually there are some more temples to visit and observed, but we have very little time. Rin Nom guided me to make a short stopover in the Bayon temple.
The Bayon temple is located in the royal city of Angkor Tom. The temple site is around 9 km squares. We visited Angkor Tom We through the east gate. We passed the bridge at which the two sides lined up dozens of statues of Gods on the left and Asuras statue on the right. The statues were pulled Vasuki dragon as the story of “the churning sea of milk”.
When entering, the gate, I realized the existence and the scene of the past glory. There is a broad field sports venues, art and other royal events. In front there is such a tall building stage where the king and officials. To the left was the elephant terrace, an elongated wall which all sides are carved with an elephant image in various shapes and movements. In Angkor Tom is located several temples, among others are The Baphuon and The Bayon.
The Bayon Temple is a temple with a thousand faces. Entering the temple is immediately noticeable hundreds of temples tower building, with a peak shaped in the face of King Jayawarman VII facing out to four wind directions. The face is perhaps the personification of the Bodhisattva or Lokeswara. The carving depicted a calm-faced, dignified and smiling. Surprisingly all the sculptures look like the same approach, therefore it was difficult to distinguish differences from each other.
Of the more than 200 faces that were scattered in all corners of the temple, there was a sacred face, whose size is the greatest of them all. This temple was relatively small, dense, and complicated inside.
At one corner tourists queued for space to sit and take pictures. I soon find out why they were so enthusiastic to find an opportunity to sit there. If you sit exactly at the spot, your face will close to the face of King Jayawarman. From a distance, it seemed like both of you are kissing!. It is really smart way Angkor’s guides to attract tourists.
At 11 am, this short visit would have to be finished. I went out of the Bayon, even when I supposed to stay a little longer here. And Rin Nom took me for a quick stop to lunch at the Angkor Wat complex and to have a little rest after long walk and observe the many temples. There were some restaurants offering a variety of Khmer cuisine. The complex is owned by the state yet managed by the private sector. The Cambodian government seems to be extra careful to maintain the site of Angkor as it is rich in relics of the past. Around the complex, areas are left as forest shade and still natural.
Exiting the restaurant, the natural music of insects chirping without stop, gave a special background sound like an external rhythm of the Angkor Wat complex.
Finally, Rin Nom drove to the airport of Siem Reap. At the airport terminal, check-in took place quickly. Many tourists prepared to leave. A middle-aged mother from France, was busy and looked a little panicky as the ticket in her bag went missing.
Before entering the waiting room, I have to queue up first to get the airport tax ticket. The price was USD $ 25 and it was more expensive than the one charged by Soekarno-Hatta Airport which was only IDR 150.000.-. I looked carefully to check the airport tax ticket, there were the details behind Passenger Service Charge 20.00 USD Security Charge and VAT 2.73 USD 2.27 USD.
After almost 24 hours in Siem Reap,I am now sitting in the waiting lounge, checking once again my return ticket: Seat 29A, Vietnam Airlines Flight VN826.
I took a deep breath, finally I made it! I was lucky enough to witness the past glory of The Khmer Kingdom. And moments later, the Boeing B-737-400 tires left off airport runway of Siem Reap. And in diminishing brownish green, the city faded away, intentionally saving mysteries of the past.
See you again Siem Reap …