Friday, December 31, 2010

Preah Khan and Ta Prohm

We continued to visit Preah Khan after stayed for about one hour at Baphuon and the surrounding area. We headed north and drove for ten minutes to reach the temple. Preah Khan and Ta Prohm both were built by Jayavarman VII, in order to honour his father and mother respectively. 

For the name translated as "Sacred Sword", Preah Khan was a unique temple, dedicated not only to Hinduism gods such as Shiva and Vishnu, but to Buddhist and local deities. Built 40 years after Angkor Wat, the compound of the temple reached an incredible area of 700 x 800 m, surrounded by 100 m wide moat. The temple was crowned with 102 prasats (towers) and stone edifices. The temple attracted as many as 100,000 people to stay at the surrounding area at its peak.

The grandness of the temple could be felt far away, by the pillars placed on both side of the road that lead to the temple. Approached from west, the center gopura for the fourth enclosure had collapsed. We went through the enclosure through engineer-reinforced side entrance. From west to east, we took a cut through the temple. Claimed much by the nature, the temple was more or less a ruin. Most of the roofs were missing, and many paths, inaccessible.

The west entrance of Preah Khan under construction (left). Many of the area are still in laterite ruins (middle). However, we could see that the restoration is in progress. One of the prasat in Preah Khan is consumed by Kapok Tree.

Preah Khan is one of the most least restored temple in Angkor Archaeology Park. No roof can be seen for most of the structures (left and middle). Many of the walls fell.

From westernmost of the third enclosure, we went through the temple of Vishnu. We reached the second enclosure through gopura, and lastly, the middle enclosure with center prasat. Beneath the prasat, stood the stupa. We continued to move east till we passed through Hall of Dancers, and rested for a while at the platform at the fourth enclosure. Within the third enclosure, from side to side, roughly counted, 150 m in distance, 15 minutes by feet. The eastern wall of the third enclosure has a spectacular view of a big kapok tree grows above it.

The sole double storey building in Preah Khan, located beside Hall of Dancers. The real function of the building is still under debate. Some said, it carries religious purposes, while some, it might be a store room. The round pillar used for that structure was the very first could be found in Khmer architectural history.

Kapok overgrown the eastern wall of Preah Khan. From this photo, Bryant could be seen standing at the center platform, taking the photo of the temple, and he was just nice to be a good reference to show the size of the temple.

Close up of the root of the Kapok.

The sculptures in the temple were detailed, especially for apsaras. As long as we had noticed, all the apsara sculptures were different from each other, either in postures, or the objects carried in their hands. The sculptures on gopuras and above the doors were in great details.

Stupa at the middle of Preah Khan, showing Buddhism was the strongest influential religion during the reign of Jayavarman VII. 

Ta Prohm, or "Ancestor of Brahma", is magnificent and emotional arousing. The laterite enclosure that last until today is 1000 x 600 m. According to the inscription, the temple had 39 prasats, 566 stone houses (stone house was rare during that time), and 260 divine images. The temple once accommodated 12,000 people and the mother of the King Jayavarman VII. The temple was built in 1186 A.D., 36 years after Angkor Wat.

The temple once was abandoned and left to be claimed by overgrown forest. As discovered, the temple was severely damaged with many kapok and fig trees grown on the top of the temple’s structure. The root of the trees grown through the wall, and reach the ground for nutrients and water. The structure versus the trees, a slow wrestling which the nature own the advantage.

We entered the outermost enclosure of Ta Prohm via the east gate to avoid congesting crowd (most visitors enter through the west gate). From the gopura till the first sight of the temple, around 400 m. The temple is huge, with some path for us, some for the workers on restoration, and others, inaccessible.

A long walk to Ta Prohm, after we entered the first enclosure.

Group photo at the second enclosure of Ta Prohm. We were standing on the platform leading to the gopura for the second enclosure.

From the east, we horded through the gopura of the fourth enclosure, crossed beside Hall of Dancers, then enter another enclosure (horded because there were really a lot of visitors). The deeper we went, the lesser the ability to get the right direction. At last, we decided to let go by simply follow the path that has been prepared by the authority. Anyway, we successfully identified several hot spots for the postcards and publications. We spent around one and a half hours in the temple.

Gopura for the second enclosure (left) and the sculpture on the wall of Ta Prohm.

Can you see the tree overgrowing the temple? Then you can surely see the visitors there. So, please don't be imaginative that you are alone in the ancient ruins that the spirit of the old will somehow pops up and scared you.

We are so proud of this photo. Why? This is the place where the cover photo of an issue for Nat Geo was taken.

Ta Prohm is a temple that is hard to describe with words and photos. The best way to get the feeling of perfect blend of nature with one of the greatest manmade structure of its time… venture into it and take it by yourself. Extra information, Ta Prohm was a shooting site for the movie “Tomb Raider”.

Doorway lead by the walkway, built for leading the visitors to the right way (left). A block on the walkway might mean a turn is necessary. 

A scene in the second enclosure of the east entrance.

Ta Prohm is huge and rich in bas-reliefs. The nagas showed the strong influence from Hinduism and Buddhism (middle). Sculptures of deva with different poses were available at almost all the entrance to the building.

We visited Ta Keo, by just looking at it from the main road, on our way from Angkor Thom to Sras Srang for lunch. Ta Keo is a prominent edifice that we will never miss, if we take the main road from the east gate of Angkor Thom to Sras Srang. The construction of the temple started around 985 A.D. (165 years before Angkor Wat). It is an incomplete masterpiece of two kings- Jayavarman V and Jayaviravarman. The construction halted after Jayaviravarman, the successor of Jayavarman V, was defeated by Suryavarman I. Ta Keo is 45 m high (height of 15 storeys building), with the outermost enclosure of 120 x 106 m.

Ta Keo from the roadside.

The middle prasats of Ta Keo. Can you see the visitors entering the left prasat? From there, you might be able to imagine the size of the whole temple.

We finished our third day by the marathon that ended on Ta Prohm. We rested, then, we were off again to visit Siem Reap Night Market and Pub Street. We roamed around Siem Reap for food and shopping for our fourth day in Siem Reap.


  1. Hi Betty & Lin Shing, is it adviseable to complete Angkor Wat, Bayon, Phnom Bakheng, Angkor Thom, Preah Khan, Ta Keo & Ta Prohm on the same day?

  2. Dear CS, thank you for dropping us an email.

  3. Hi, if we have only 2 days to visit and want to cover angkor wat, angkor thom, phnom bahkeng for sunset, taphrom., how should we spilt the places to visit? Btw. I love reading your entries:)