Fighting the Crowds at Ta Phrom

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.

Crowded parking lot at Ta Phrom in Angkor, Cambodia

Arriving at Ta Phrom

Crowded entrance at Ta Phrom in Angkor, Cambodia

Fighting through the crowds at the entrance to Ta Phrom

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.

Ruins at Ta Phrom in Angkor, Cambodia

Ruins at Ta Phrom

Tower at Ta Phrom in Angkor, Cambodia

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.

Tree covered ruins at Ta Phrom in Angkor, Cambodia

The best photo I could get of the famous doorway at Ta Phrom. There were at least 40 people crowded in this little area lining up for a photo.

Tree covered ruins at Ta Phrom in Angkor, Cambodia

Another popular photo spot in Ta Phrom. I took this photo out of a window to get my camera above the crowds.

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.

An ancient hallway at Ta Phrom in Angkor, Cambodia

Wandering down an ancient hallway

Carved doorway at Ta Phrom in Angkor, Cambodia

A beautiful carved doorway, complete with tree roots strangling the ancient stonework.

Ancient jungle ruins at Ta Phrom in Angkor, Cambodia

One of the more remote parts of the temple, just as impressive

Quiet hallway in Ta Phrom in Angkor, Cambodia

The light shines through the columns of a quiet hallway in Ta Phrom

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.

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9 comments… add one
  • Jen Seligmann Feb 16, 2014

    Great tips Dean. As well as first thing in the morning we also found that after 3pm was quiet too.

    • Dean Wickham Mar 18, 2014

      Hi Jen. Thanks for the tip. It’s good to know that there are a few options.

  • NIce photos! I find it most interesting to visit the Temples of Angkor in Cambodia. It seems to be a wonderful spot to visit

  • Cheryl Howard Feb 19, 2014

    I personally don’t mind having people in my photos as I think that it makes them more real. I can certainly understand why you would want to visit without all of the crowds though. More fun if you feel like you have the place to yourself. 🙂

    • Dean Wickham Mar 18, 2014

      Hi Cheryl. I don’t mind having people in my photos, but a whole tour group is a little much for me 😉

  • Kristy@Visa USA Feb 19, 2014

    All I can say that the place is super lovely. I can’t wait to go there.

  • While I hate crowds, it looks completely worth it.

    • Dean Wickham Mar 18, 2014

      Oh it definitely is Stephanie. Nothing can take away the magnificence of the place.

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