As someone who loves travel and the Internet and has seen Lara Croft Tomb Raider, I had seen about 1,000,000,000 photos of Ta Prohm before getting there, and to be honest, wanted to visit Angkor more for these temples than Angkor Wat itself and since the Grand Tour I was taking is a tease like that, Ta Phrohm was the last stop of the tour.
At first, this only required that I ensure I had ample camera battery and space on my memory card remaining when I arrived. Now, although this is a staple task during virtually all of my travel outings, this time it was easier said than done. My camera began looming over the menacing 1/3 charge level dangerously early in the day and my card only holds 500 photos, the majority of which I had already used, and the remainder I needed to save for the rest of my excursions. Nonetheless, with (a lot of) self-control, I was able to curb my trigger-finger and maintain a reasonable photo-taking pace (comparatively, for being at the most opulent temples I have ever seen).
However, this little happening doesn’t involve any tomb raiding like the title mentions, so the plot only thickens from here. First, a little explanation about temple-viewing procedures: at the gates to each temple complex, you have to show your Angkor-pass to the Angkor-authorities. Although the whole circuit only has one entrance, and it would be significantly more convenient just to check passes once there, you nonetheless have to show it at each individual temple. Not the most exciting bit of information, I know, so it was far from my mind as I ran-skipped towards the entrance to Ta Prohm in an excited fever (yes, a fever, it was mid day, sunny and over 30C). As I approached the gate, I reached in my bag to pull out my wallet, only to react in terror as I realized that neither my wallet nor my Angkor-pass was there.
Realizing the horror of not being able to see Ta Prohm, I dashed back to the Tuk Tuk I was touring in, and instructed the driver to return to the last temple I had visited, Ta Som. Time was of the essence and I stressed this urgency to the driver, but Cambodia is infamous for being full of slow drivers, and although there was a bit of notable change in speed, the ride back to Ta Som still felt like the longest one of my life (which is say a lot, as I has just taken a 12 hour ride from Saigon to Siem Reap). The Angkor-authorities at Ta Som fortunately recognised me and let me back in without my pass. Upon entering before, they had looked sceptically at my friend, claiming she and the girl on her Angkor-pass were “same-same but different”, as she had recently switched her glasses for contact lenses. Now, this “same-same but different” saying is a weakness for all tourists in Southeast Asia, (its just so hilarious to hear) and is often used to make them buy silly shirts, or to distract them while haggling at a market. This being said, my friend was able to prove her identity by showing the guard her glasses (she didn’t even need to put them on, just prove she owned a pair). I, on the other hand, had been disarmed, laughing distractedly as I put my wallet and Angkor-pass away.
Upon returning and scouring the entire temple multiple times over, I had to admit that someone had taken it.
While I had money and my student pass in my wallet, the main concern of the moment was the lack of ability to get into Ta Prohm. I begged the guard to explain my situation to the Angkor-authorities there, but he stubbornly refused to leave his post. Not willing to give up that easily, I nonetheless instructed the driver to return to Ta Prohm, claiming I wanted to search the area for my missing pass. After a quick scan of the area (namely the trash bin I had thrown my water bottle in – recycling isn’t a big thing in Cambodia), I “accidentally” veered off the main path, past a restoration site, along another trail and towards a back entrance to Ta Prohm, which, “strangely enough” wasn’t host to any Angkor-authorities.
While the Ta Prohm I finally made it to was built as a school and monastery, not as the home of the Triangle of Light, and didn’t even have any Jasmine growing around it, as Lara Croft would have you believe, it was still an awe-inspiring fusion of nature and ancient architecture, definitely the highlight of the Angkor tour.