My Angelina Jolie Experience in Ta Prohm

Siem Reap, Cambodia

April 25, 2008

AJ was in Ta Prohm, a ruined ancient temple within Angkor Archaeological Park. I don’t only mean yours truly, but also the famous AJ: Angelina Jolie. The actress-humanitarian-mother shot some scenes for Lara Croft: Tomb Raider in the Angkor complex, most memorably in Ta Prohm.

Ta Prohm: A Tyranny of Trees

The scene: AJ, as Lara Croft, saunters through a deserted temple overgrown with foliage. She hears a child’s laughter echoing through the ruins. She spots a young girl hiding behind the rubbles. The girl runs, laughing. She follows her. The girl leads her to a courtyard, and then disappears. The ground opens up under her feet and AJ falls into a cavernous chamber.

This AJ found himself walking in that exact same courtyard that looked very much as it did in the film. I felt as if I walked into the scene. Alas, the only AJ there was – me! Thus began my Angelina Jolie experience in Ta Prohm.

Trees and Temple – Eternally Entwined in Ta Prohm

In fact, the real life Ta Prohm was akin to a movie set, and that courtyard was its centerpiece. Eerily beautiful, it had become a virtual arena where the battle between nature and man-made formidable fortresses was played out. Serpentine roots of banyan, fig, and silk-cotton trees had slowly strangled the corridors and columns of the temple over the centuries. Time was on nature’s side. You couldn’t see the actual movement but the dynamism was evident in the rubble, as if the temple had been demolished by an earthquake. The trees here had talons that held the temple in its unrelenting grip; their massive trunks cracked solid walls of stone apart. Tons of hard rocks were no match to the exuberance of life.

Root vs. Rock @ Ta Prohm

Even from afar, the temple was unmistakably different. Unlike the temple-mountains – Angkor Wat and Bayon,  Ta Prohm was sprawling rather than imposing. No sense of the majestic here. In contrast, a long pathway through the rainforest led to a crumbling gate. The archway seemed perilously unsteady and threatened to topple.  Some parts of the temple were cordoned off because of instability of the ruins.

Breaking News: Chubby Tourist Breaks Centuries-Old Rock @ Ta Prohm

Archaeologists intentionally left the temple in a partial state of ruin. For good reason. The sight of the encroaching forest and the temple eternally entwined was surreal. But then again, a throng of tourists and unsightly boardwalks made it look like Universal Studios instead. Perhaps owing to its smaller size, it was harder to lose the crowds here than in Angkor Wat and Bayon. Nevertheless, I could imagine what it must have been like for the first European explorers who discovered Angkor.

Lovely Lintel in Ta Prohm Temple
Classic Carvings in Ta Prohm Temple

Inside the temple, crouching was the only way to go. It was akin to a cavern, much like the one in the movie where AJ, as Lara Croft, fell into and battled a multi-limbed, four-faced Brahma made of stone, only smaller. Interestingly, Ta Prohm means “ancestor Brahma.”

Like a Bodhisattva
Temple Tots: Local Children in Ta Prohm

Like AJ in the movie, I heard echoes of children’s laughter too. I saw four of them at a large window, gawking at the procession of tourists. They seemed out-of-place there, much like that mysterious girl in the movie. There were no local children milling about in neighboring Angkor Wat and Bayon.

Outside the temple, I met a boy, smeared with dirt. He did not utter a word, but his searching face said it all. Alms. Such children panhandling in the temple grounds must have touched the other AJ’s heart. Of course, the whole celebrity-watching world knows that after shooting the film, she went back to Cambodia and adopted a Khmer orphan she named Maddox. No such luck for the children with this AJ.

Khmer Kid

Ta Prohm offered me a glimpse of what Angelina Jolie had experienced, and had most likely fallen in love with, in this country – that distinctly Cambodian complementary charm of the ancient and the innocent, of past glories and present struggles.

Tongue in Tree Trunk @ Ta Prohm
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69 thoughts on “My Angelina Jolie Experience in Ta Prohm

  1. haha bro? I like the way you write, you a gifted… naks… Kaya lang ok na sana mga pics except for the last… haha

    1. Geez, how can you say that??? That last pic is my favorite!! You couldn’t imagine what I had to go through for that photo op. Otherworldly bugs were crawling up my legs inside that hollow tree trunk! Oh well, I’m a hopeless camwhore…hehe

  2. If you’re going to backpack throughout the whole world, which is the likely goal, you need to invest on a big a$$ digicam, the pics are wonderful but if they were the truly superb bubbas, you would have elevated yourself up… to what is the question…

    1. Erich, if I had the money, I’d go for a fancy camera. It always boils down to that! 🙂 But to be honest, I’m lovin my point-and-shoot. I like my photos raw and not too artsy-fartsy for now. I don’t intend to be professional anyway.

    1. Stalker!!! :p But thanks for the kind words. Cumin’ from a post-grad academic, it’s truly THE BOMB! Hehehe

  3. really guffaw-deserving captions you have on your pics. Again, great writing. I went on a fantastic European backpacking trip myself two years ago and promised to do something like this. Until present that intent remained…an intent. 🙂

    keep up the great scribblings, I am sure to stalk your work from time to time. 🙂

    1. Thanks Gin! I’d be honored to get stalked by you. Haha! Make sure you send me your blog link. Would love to return the stalking. 🙂

    1. Haha! Anything that has to do with my tongue is the best. :p Of course, being the Pinoy that I am, I also have a jump shot, taken at Himeji Castle in Japan. It’s somewhere in this blog. 🙂

  4. I was there too. and i swear i didn’t break those centuries-old rocks :))

    enjoyed this. thoroughly. and about that P&S cam…….i love mine too. better to draw superb shots from a P&S , than to end up with bad shots from an honest to goodness DLSR. Yun lang. 😉

    1. Oh, Tita Lili, your svelte self couldn’t even break glass! 🙂

      My thoughts exactly. That’s why I don’t use a DSLR. I couldn’t commit to learning photography. And I don’t wanna waste such technology, unlike so many I know, haha!

    1. Name dropping is an age-old marketing ploy, haha! Angelina Jolie always brings in the traffic. I should find a way to work Paris Hilton into a post title. 😀

    1. Fat chance, Sheril! I wish!!! 🙂 Ta Prohm is a Buddhist temple. But you know how complicated history is. There had been times the Angkorian kingdom converted to Hinduism, hence the Hindu influences.

    1. Nice to see you here in my site, Cris! Yup, as I always say, everyone should visit Angkor Wat at least once. We, Pinoys, are lucky cuz Cambodia is quite near and cheap to go to. Go for it!

  5. i can’t help laughing on the breaking news photo hehe, that was really an amazing and beautiful place, wish i could get there too someday

    1. @Den: You don’t have to save much. Cebu Pacific has recently opened their Manila-Siem Reap route. There’s a promo fare now, only P888. And no visa required in Cambodia!

      @Joy: That was why I couldn’t resist taking the photo. Too funny! And as I’ve told Den, Cambodia has just been made accessible by Cebu Pacific to Pinoys. Go for it, Joy!

  6. The tree foliage has grown all around the temple .It took me time looking closely at your breaking news pic,funny. Anyway ,AJ and AJ at Ta Prohm Temple.You took greta photos of the place and a greta experience.

  7. I’ve seen that movie! and yes, I saw that scene! Very nice place! Nice photos – very well taken…

    Hmmmm… will put Angkor Wat in my list. Pwedeng PM ang budget? hahahahaha

    1. @Tatess: Thanks for the kind words. 🙂

      @Amor: Thanks too. Cambodia is one of the cheapest countries to visit. Cebu Pacific just unveiled their direct flights to Siem Reap and there are many budget hotels you can find at the internet. For a 3-day stay, P10k won’t be bad. Go lang ng go!

  8. Ta Prohm, a ruined ancient temple within Angkor Archaeological Park is a recollection of the past and it’s given world wide expose’ of my best actress Angelina Jolie for her movie. The pictures are well-taken. I like them.

    1. @Tumandok: Yes, the place does owe its added renown to Jolie and that movie. I was most excited to see it because of that.

      @Clint: Right, there was something spooky about the ruins and the roots strangling them, although there were many people there that time so I wasn’t totally get creeped out.

  9. Hehe I’m sorting my Cambodia photos last night too hoping to post them soon, I went to siem reap wearing my Angelina Jolie outfit.. Hehe. And visited all their amazing temples. ;-)) though I’m not as flexible as her I can’t even navigate the temple stairs!

  10. Ta Prohm is unforgettable for me for a different reason. I was there around noon time and it was so hot. I just found myself a place in some ruins, out of sight of other tourists, and went to sleep hehe The kids there are very aggressive eh? They wouldn’t stop asking you for alms or selling things. Now that Cebu Pac is flying there, Id like to go back 🙂

    1. @Violy: Do post your Cambodia photos! You must have the body (and the lips?) of Angelina Jolie to give justice to her wardrobe! 🙂

      @Aleah: You slept at Ta Prohm?! Yeah, the kids were so kulit, but most of them just gawked at tourists and posed for photos. Only that boy in the photo actually approached me with an open palm.

  11. laughed out loud with the breaking news! 😀 This is a very nice article especially that we are planning to visit the place soon! aahh I can’t wait to see this for myself. Gotta have my cam’s extra battery for sure! 🙂

    1. @Gemma: Wagi talaga! Yes, you should do Cambodia para wagi ka rin. 🙂

      @Kathy: Sure, I’m open for hounding, business hours only ha, not 24/7. 😀 I’m glad I’m able to promote my favorite country in my own small way.

  12. yup i remember that scene from Tomb Raider, and i have no idea it was in Cambodia…my desire to visit Cambodia is getting bigger as i read ur posts…keep it coming!

    1. Edmaration and Yuu Ki: Yes, Cambodia is cinematic. Of course, it’s famous for Tomb Raider, but other movies have been shot there, like a Wong Kar-wai’s “In the Mood for Love” and our very own “Iskul Bukol 20 Years After”! 😀

  13. Wow, that place is beautiful! 😀 I grew up playing Tomb Raider and I’m a big fan of the movie and Angelina Jolie as well.. Haha.. Wish I’ll be able to visit Ta Prohm in the future.. 🙂

    1. Sumi and Tadong Genius Kuno: Go lang ng go. And mura na magbiyahe ngayon dahil naglipana ang mga budget airlines. Meron na ngang direct flight from Manila to Siem Reap ang Cebu Pac. Dapat bayaran na ako ng Cebu Pac sa kaka-plug ko ng Cambodia flights nila dito ha. 😀

    1. @Romelo: Sad to say, that was the closest I’ve ever been to Angelina Jolie – to walk the landmine-less ground she had walked on.

      @KC: Visit Angkor Wat for the history and the villages around Tonle Sap for the current state of Cambodia.

      @joomlaguro and chrisair. 🙂

    1. @Stacy: Hahaha I hear ya. It does look like a movie set. But this is not the backlot of Universal or Paramount.

      @Cha: Go lang ng go!

    1. @Algene: There really is a spooky factor. It’s otherworldly and sinister, which give the temple its character. If you’ve seen Tomb Raider, the scenes in Ta Prohm were scary (well, as far as action scenes go).

      @Michi: I’m a Jolie groupie! Thanks.

    1. @Simurgh: Yup, you can explore the temple’s dark and low-ceiling hallways. I didn’t take a lot of photos inside cuz it was pitch black. The few I took were crappy. But since you’re a real photographer, keri mo na yun. The stone carvings inside are fantastic!

      @Ralph: The trees must be centuries old, probably the same ones that the French explorers saw when they “discovered” the temple 150 years ago.

  14. Luv your blog. I was there in 2010 and was really awed by the temples. Another thing, if we could only get half of the number of tourists they get, I think our economy will be better of. I think were the only Asians during our trip.

    1. I also wondered about how Cambodia snared crowds of Western tourists. But then again, Angkor Wat is an iconic temple, mostly considered the best among all temples the world over. We don’t have any iconic structure in our country.

      Thanks for the blog love, Nina!

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