For the most part, I had done pretty well with planning my exploration of the Temples of Angkor in Cambodia. We managed to avoid the worst of the crowds at the more popular temples such as Banteay Srei and of course, Angkor Wat, which we explored in the dim post-dawn light. We even made it to Bayon just before the huge tour buses arrived. This all completely changed however, when we finally got to Ta Phrom – the very famous “Tomb Raider Temple“. The one with all of the trees growing over the ruins. There’s no doubt that you’ve seen photos of it somewhere.
As our tuk tuk arrived at the entrance to Ta Phrom, the previously quiet road had turned into a messy parking lot full of tour buses, mini vans and what seemed like half of the tuk tuks in Siem Reap. We hopped off of our tuk tuk only to be approached by about a dozen vendors trying to sell us souvenirs, guide books and drinks. Entering the temple was just as bad, fighting through the hordes of tour groups.
Walking through the temple reminded me of visiting the Vatican City museums, flowing through with the crowds and having to try and take photos by holding my camera up in the air above my head and hoping that I get everything that I want in the frame. It was like being part of a river of people flowing through the halls of this ancient stone structure. It was a relief when I found a turn off from the main central hallway that lead away from the path that the tour groups seem to follow.
We of course visited some of the popular spots in Ta Phrom where massive tree roots had strangled the ancient carved stones of the temple. There is that famous photo that you always see of Ta Phrom, where the roots of a tree have surrounded a stone doorway. The truth is that I have no idea how people have managed to get a photo like that without ten tourists standing in front of it. I felt like I was taking holiday photos for other people.
We gave up and moved onto some of the more remote parts of the temple, well away from the path that the groups were taking where we could finally actually take some time to appreciate where we were.
Ta Phrom truly is spectacular, and I can see why it is so popular. Next time though, I think that I will follow the same strategy that I used at Angkor Wat and visit it first thing in the morning. Those crowds are just too much for me.