Tour to the Temple of Tomb Raider (Ta Prohm) and to the temple of Banteay Kdei

April 2013 

Of all the temples of Angkor, the temple of Ta Prohm is especially famous and known to locals as "Tomb Raider Temple" or "Temple of Angelina Jolie" as used in the filming Tomb Raider which sees the actress in the role of Lara Croft. This temple is particularly picturesque because it was invaded by the jungle with ficus thugs who are seizing the ruins. The tour continues with a visit to the temple of Bantey Kdei which is considered the younger brother of Ta Prohm.

Archeology  in Cambodia
Ruins in the giungle

The Temple of Ta Prohm in Cambodia is one of the most famous temples of Angkor, as it has been used as a film set of the video game and movie Tomb Raider; in fact, it’s locally known by the name "Temple of Tomb Raider "or even "Angelina Jolie Temple" from the name of the actress who played the role of Lara Croft, the protagonist of the story.

In reality, the site is a Buddhist monastery and a university, built by King Jayavarman VII in the twelfth century AD and buried in the jungle for many centuries after the sunset of the Khmer empire.

Temple of Ta Prohm
Guardian Lion

The guardian lion greets visitors at the entrance of the internal structure of the temple of Ta Prohm (Tomb Raider temple).
Temple Ta Prohm
After the end of the Khmer civilization, the structures were left to themselves and nature has tried to take the spaces back. Large, very picturesque, roots wrap around some buildings, concealing low-reliefs on the fa├žades.
Ruins in Cambodia
Archeological ruins in Cambodia

The state of preservation of the temple of Ta Prohm is not the best, but they are works in progress to recover and consolidate; they will not alter greatly the very special atmosphere that this temple offers thanks to the trees growing on the ruins.

The ruins of some great central towers.
 Ta Prohm Set of the movie Tomb Raider
Tomb Raider Tree
Temples of Angkor the giungle and the ruins
Photo of the Tomb Raider temple. Trees, and in particular the Strangler Ficus and Tetrameles nudiflora, lay their clunking roots above the ruins. Over the decades, the roots get larger and stronger, until they look like real trunks.

Photo of Ta Prohm temple (temples of Angkor) in Cambodia. View on the ruins of the towers and the central buildings.

The face
A clunking root turned into a big trunk surrounds a sculpture of devatas, only revealing her face.

Roots and boulders from slumping hidden doors and passages, making them inaccessible.
Temple of Tomb Raider
Photo of Ta Prohm temple. One of the views made more famous by the movie Tomb Raider, where a dense network of clunking roots surround a door.
Temple of  Tomb Raider Roots on the ruins
The tour to the Temple of Tomb Raider continues walking through the ruins in the vegetation. It takes about two hours to visit the whole archaeological site (the outer walls have a perimeter of about three kilometers).
Temple of Angeline Jolie
The roots of a large tree wrap around the second inner wall.
Trees on ruins

Some of the buildings of the temple of Ta Prohm that had various religious and cultural functions.
The outer wall attacked by the jungle.
The tour to the temple of Ta Prohm ends with the image of this devata who seems to welcome the guest that comes through the entrance.
Guardian lions
The journey through the temples of Angkor in Cambodia continues with a visit to the temple of Banteay Kdei, regarded as the "little brother" of the Temple of Tomb Raider just seen. The statues of guardian lions greet visitors at the entrance.
The temple of Banteay Kdei is a temple of Angkor built in the Bayon style and is dedicated to the Buddhist religion.
Devata sculptures

In the temple of Banteay Kdei there are many depictions of Khmer women and other finely carved reliefs on the columns of the inner galleries.
Photo of devata (Khmer female figures)
Female figure Temple of Banteay Kdei
Photo of Banteay Kdei. The inside of the temple is a maze where low-reliefs, doors and corridors create interesting perspective effects.
Banteay Kdei Cambodia
The rooms around the central shrine.
Temple Banteay Kdei
The central shrine of the temple of Banteay Kdei.
Unstable ruins

The signs of time ... the temple of Banteay Kdei is not in good condition and work to secure some structures is in progress.
Temple Banteay
I come out from the other side, where the sun shines on the ruins with its warm late afternoon light.

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English translation by Lorena Anzani.