50 — Scene in Cambodia (6) Tomb Raiders

Note: this is an ongoing series about our trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia in December, 2009. Part I of this account can be found here.

Served up by Netflix — Tomb Raider!

Yes, I did actually put this movie into my queue…for a reason.

When we were in Siem Reap, Cambodia, and told our tuk-tuk driver that our temple itinerary for the first day was Morning–Angkor Thom, Afternoon–Angkor Vat, he looked at us in horror. “No, no,” he insisted. “Morning–Ankgor Thom and Vat. Afternoon–Ta Prohm.”

I admitted to him that Ta Prohm had never been on our schedule at all.

His eyes nearly popped out of his head. “Angelina Jolie, Angelina Jolie,” he screamed. “Tomb Raider, Ta Prohm, Tomb Raider.” He waved his arms wildly. I was worried he’d fall off his motorcycle seat with all the combined enthusiasm and horror.

“Okay,” I tried to pacify him. “We will see Ta Prohm–but not today.”

What could we do? I’d made a promise. So, three days later, we made our pilgrimage to Ta Prohm. And am I glad we did. I’m sure you will see why…

No matter where you turn in Ta Prohm there are picturesque examples of tree over temple.


…and again.

And obviously, I am not the only one who thinks they are “picturesque,” or at least worthy of a photo!

The trees that swallow these structures whole…

are not called “Strangler” figs for nothing.

And, Ta Prohm is not the only temple threatened by stone-grinding roots.

The distant Beng Melea is so consumed by figs…

…that parts of it resemble a quarry more than a temple!

In both these cases, the decision has been made that the temple-raiders add as much as they take away and are part of the charm and allure of the temples they destroy. Efforts are being made to somehow preserve a balance of both. Not an easy endeavor with trees that have such ravenous appetites.

Happily, there are several places where the forces of nature are just as beautiful, yet far less destructive. This stand of grass at one of the best-preserved temples–Banteay Samre–has a stark simplicity that is breathtaking.

Also, at Banteay Samre is a graceful frangipani…

and bougainvillea to add a splash of color.

At the Bayon, in Ankgor Thom, I am captivated by the delicate beauty of wildflowers against carved stone.

Not all the vegetation has turned raider.

However, there is no doubt that there is something irresistible about the power and audacity of the strangler fig which thinks nothing of pitting wood against stone. I have to agree that Ta Prohm is indeed a dramatic backdrop for a tomb raiding adventure, and I cannot help but look back on it as I leave.

Again, and again.

And almost as if the temple has read my desire to linger here and stamp this place in my memory, we pass a group of tourists on the long way back. While walking by a company of “minefield victim” musicians, they cannot seem to help themselves, but break out dancing!

I see their graceful moves and watch in awe as the stone apsaras from the temple, come alive in their steps.

Their hand gestures…

…mirror those passed down through the centuries.

So, here I sit watching Tomb Raider and Angelina Jolie, waiting, lusting for one more glimpse of the haunting Ta Prohm.

Uh…where did that come from?

Every time I remember our trip, it seems, I dream of food. This diet is killing me. Better chill before it sends me to my own tomb!

9 thoughts on “50 — Scene in Cambodia (6) Tomb Raiders

    1. rillajaggia Post author

      No kidding, Pat! I’d hate to come upon those trees at night, their voracious white roots glistening in the light of the full moon…hmm…maybe there’s a story here!

  1. Katia Novet Saint-Lot

    That temple was one of my favorites. Well, they were all my favorites, mind you. By the way, did you go to the pink temple ? The atmosphere there was so eerie and magical. I loved it. Thanks again, and again, for taking me back there with your beautiful pictures, Rilla.

    1. rillajaggia Post author

      Hey Katia,

      Yes! Ta Prohm was really special. As was the pink temple, Banteay Srei. Will post pictures of it too. Unfortunately, with all the tourists nowadays scrambling everywhere, the eerie feeling is lost. But the temple is stunning nevertheless

  2. LynNerd

    I finally got to read your blog, Rilla. Wow, those trees are stunning in a monster sort of way. I bet there’s thousands of stories to be told about them, maybe more. Yes, definitely more than thousands. What an amazing trip you and Satish were on. Do you think you’ll ever go back there?

    1. rillajaggia Post author

      Hey Lynnie,
      So happy you found the time to trip over to my blog. Now if only I could find more time to update it more often! Yup, I will be telling more stories of Cambodia soon. It was a fabulous trip. We would love to go back…but…there’s so much of the rest of the world calling too.
      See you soon!


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