It is 7 AM, and we have already been up for one and a half hours. Our tuk-tuk driver has just dropped us off at the entrance to Ta Prohm, one of the 1000+ temples built in the Angkor area from the 10th to the 13th century. Angkor is believed to have been the largest pre-industrial city in the world: at its peak, it may have had as many as one million inhabitants. At that time, the city area was as large as Paris is today.
These are staggering facts, making the area nowadays one of the most popular attractions in Asia. Yet, it is still possible to avoid the crowds and have a walk in the abandoned temples (almost) by yourself.
This is precisely what we have set our minds to doing. And as the guard opens the gate at 7.15 AM, 15 minutes before the official opening time, we are indeed the first visitors to step onto the temple grounds.
After a few minutes’ stroll down a gravel road, the magnificent ancient temple of Ta Prohm appears before us. Huge stones with the most intricate carvings make up the temple walls, and massive tree roots have taken their grip on the temple structures. It is an unreal sight, leaving us speechless. As we stand in awe, admiring this spectacle, the only sounds we hear are birds chirping.
Although we are well-aware that we are visiting a popular tourist destination, these first steps around the temple walls make us feel like explorers discovering a historical marvel for the first time.
An hour and a half later, the peace and quiet start to make way for the sounds of more and more visitors. As we head towards the outer exit gates, we are glad we arrived early. Ta Prohm is understandably a very popular location, yet, for those willing to get up early enough, it is still possible to get some private time at the temple.
Practical information and tips:
- Ta Prohm is located about 13 kilometers (a 30-minute tuk-tuk ride) outside of Siem Reap town in Cambodia.
- The temple is open between 7.30 AM and 5.30 PM every day.
- Tickets for the Angkor Archaeological Park, where Ta Prohm is located, must be bought from the official Angkor Ticket Office, located 4 kilometers from the city center on the way to Ta Prohm. All drivers will take you there before going to the park if you don’t have a ticket. The entrance fee as of January 2019 is 37USD/62USD/72USD for a 1/3/7-day pass.
- Link to more information regarding opening times and entrance fees.
- To avoid the crowds, arrive at Ta Prohm just after 7 AM and start queuing at the entrance. Hopefully, the guards will let you in before the official opening time, but even if they don’t, you still want to be the first in line to enter the temple grounds. Head straight for the temple and do not stop for pictures on the pathway.
- Angkor has a Visitor Code of Conduct. In brief, it states that both women and men should cover up their shoulders and knees. Without respectful clothing, you will not be allowed to enter the temple sites.
- It is prohibited to smoke, litter or climb the temple ruins.
- Monks are to be respected and if you want to take pictures with them, ask them for permission first. Women should not touch nor stand or sit too close to the monks.
- Link to more information regarding Angkor Visitor Code of Conduct.
- Due to all the trees and vegetation around the temple, we recommend applying plenty of bug repellent.
- Bring water. Exploring the temple in the heat will make you thirsty.
- Please note that buying items from children or giving them money or candy will encourage them to beg in the streets rather than attend school. If you really want to help, please instead consider donating to a recognized charity.