The Ta Som is a small temple at the Eastern edge of the Jayatataka baray. The Bayon style monument was built by King Jayavarman VII in the late 12th century. The King dedicated Ta Som to his ancestors.

The Bayon style is evident in the East and West gopura entrance building of the outer enclosure, which are topped with large faces of Lokeshvara, the Bodhisattva of compassion, facing all four directions.

The temple is oriented towards the East. Three enclosures and a moat surround a single sanctuary tower in the center of the temple. Dedicated to the Buddha, the lintels and pediments of the Ta Som also contain sculptings of Hindu depictions.

Ta Som was cleared from jungle vegetation in the 1930’s.

What does it mean?

The Khmer pronunciation of the ‘o’ in ‘Ta Som’ is a diphtong, consisting of an ‘a’ like in ‘arch’ and an open ‘o’ like in ‘organ’. When spoken by Khmer people, ‘Ta Som’ sounds a little bit more like ‘Ta Sowm’ than ‘Ta Sorm’, but not at all like ‘Ta Somm’, though every driver or guide will understand you if you pronounce it this way as every other tourist does. Other spellings, sometimes used instead of ‘Ta Som’, are ‘Ta Sohm’ or ‘Ta Saum’.

The modern Khmer Name ‘Ta Som’ means ‘ancestor Som’, ‘Som’ being the short name of King  Jayavarman’s teacher. But it is doubtful whether Ta Som was actually dedicated to a teacher.

A stele found in Preah Khan probably mentions the medieval monastery of Ta Som, allowing to identify the temple's original Sanskrit name: ‘Gaurashrigajaratna’, which translates to ‘Propitious-Holy-Elephant-Jewel’. A ‘shrigaja’, which translates to ‘shining elephant’ or also ‘holy elephant’, is a white elephant, in Southeast Asia so-called white elephants are reserved for royalty. The said inscription also mentions the temple was home of 22 or 24 deities.

Overview of Ta Som

Ta Som is a medium-sized temple in the Bayon style. This means, it’s a Buddhist monument from the late 12th century. Architecture and decorations are typical of the reign of Jayavarman VII, whose fame is to have built more structures than any other Khmer king. Ta Som is one of the Khmer temples with face towers, which are considered to be a hallmark of the Bayon style, although they can not be seen at all monuments from this period.

There are two main attractions in the charming Ta Som temple. A fairy-tale tree growing atop the historical main gateway (Eastern Gopuram III) can be seen at the opposite end of the compound (this is to say: at the rear when starting at the visitors' entrance).

Apart from the jungle temple Ta Prohm's rarely visited exterior Northern Gopuram, the East Gate of Ta Som has become the only Buddhist face-tower the surface of which is widely covered by roots of a strangler fig. You cannot find something like this at the larger and more famous enigmatic face towers of Angkor Thom.

For lovers of ancient Khmer art, the decorations of Ta Som are remarkable, as there are extraordinarily large and comparatively well-preserved stone carvings depicting the Mahayana Buddhist saviour Avolokitheshwara, who is usually called 'Lokeshwara' in the ancient Khmer culture. Likewise, the female 'Apsara' carvings are more exquisite than those at other contemporary Khmer temples.

Below is the glimpse of Ta Som Temple in 360o viewing:

What to see at Ta Som?

The temple is a flat temple, this means all parts are on ground level and the central shrine is surrounded by enclosure walls. Ta Som is a medium-sized monastic complex, smaller than the contemporry similar Bayon-style temples of Banteay Kdei, Ta Prohm and Preah Khan, comparable in size to Ta Nei and Banteay Thom.

As mentioned, Ta Som a typical structure of the era of the most prolific temple builder in Angkor's history, Jayavarman VII (1181- ca. 1218). Not all temples dating from the reign of this king have towers with those impressive depictions of giant Buddha faces this Angkor period is famous for, but Ta Som is indeed one of Cambodia's face-tower monuments.

Face towers as exterior temple gateways (3rd enclosure)

Altogether eight colossal faces can be seen at Ta Som, four on either side of the two outer temple towers (Gopurams of the third enclosure), these face towers forming the eastern and the western gates of Ta Som. As usual, the East Gopuram, which is now famous for its strangler fig, originally was the main gate of the sanctuary. 

Today’s visitor arriving at the car park at the Grand Circuit, however, will start his walkabout from the opposite side, entering the temple area via the western face tower. The colossal Buddhist faces of Ta Som are of a smaller scale than those at the city gates of Angkor Thom. Just below the face of the west gate, the visitor can see a first example of a carving representing Bodhisattva Lokeshvara adored by several smaller followers in a lower register.

Designed to be entered from the east, Ta Som is surrounded by a moat and enclosed by altogether three laterite walls, remnants of a moat can be seen at the eastern gate. The outer (third) enclosure measures 240 m in length from face tower to face tower and 200 m in width. 

Probably, this exterior enclosure wall made of laterite is a later addition from the reign of Indravarman II in the first half of 13th century, although the Buddhist faces of the entrance towers are more likely from the original Bayon period of Jayavarman VII.

Excavated Lokeshvara pediment

The second enclosure has ist own moat inside its laterite walls. When crossing the gateway of the second enclosure, which is wider but less high than the face tower, the visitor can enter the main shrine of the first enclosure. But we recommend turning right and first go to the east gate.

During the restoration works, new sculptural decorations have come to light, which were buried in the ground. Originally, they had decorated the pediments of the temple. The most imposing ones are pediments with a Lokshvara figures, some of which are now placed one the ground. 

One such unearthed and restored pediment carving, presumably the most beautiful one, is placed in front of the south wall of the main complex. You will not miss it when surrounding the temple proper, passing it at its southern side. 

The Bodhisattva in the center is venerated by two kneeling Asura demons, dressed like royals, and another row of Asuras below them. Their hands depict the gesture of prayer and devotion. The Bodhisattva Lokeshvara has inapproportately short legs.

East Gate with strangler fig (3rd enclosure)

The eastern face-tower is one of the most often photographed Khmer monuments. The tower is crowned by a superb example of Angkor's world-famous stone-cracking trees, a quite dramatic sight. The strangler fig still stands upright, but it died in the 1970s. 

This means, it does not grow any more and due to starting decomposition it will fall down in a not too far away future. So, dear travellers intending to visit Cambodia, hurry on to see the spectacular tree still standing upright on the monument!

The roots of the tree cover another pediment carrying a Lokeshwara relief, but it's only partli visible. The wider parts of the panel which can still be seen is the right bottom of the panel showing three rows of adorants. A similar pediment is on the northern side and a smaller one faces south.

Eastern Gopuram 2 (2nd enclosure)

Returning to the core area of the sanctuary, the visitor, of course, has to pass the eastern gateway of the second enclosure again. It’s worth stopping here for a while to detect some of the more hidden Buddhist carvings, since within the temple of Ta Som only this second eastern Gopura has depictions of the ‘Churning of the Ocean of Milk’, which is otherwise a very common theme in the Bayon style.

The northern side of the causeway to the west of this second Gopura carries a long narrow frieze representing this famous scene, in a stretched version. The same subject is carved, in a shorter space, on the pedestal base of the eastern door of this gate. Thisminimal version of the scene is similar to that one of Tonle Bati to the south of Phnom Penh.

Courtyard of the temple proper (1st enclosure)

Ta Som's temple proper has laterite galleries surrounding the temple courtyard (inner enclosure), encompassing a cruciform Prasat sanctuary and two  so-called libraries built of sandstone. It is much like a miniature version of Ta Prohm, or more precisely, like a copy of its northern and southern side temples.

The first (inner) enclosure is 30 m long and 20 m wide. This core section of the temple consists of a central cruciform sanctuary with porches at each arm surrounded by four corner pavilions. Two small libraries sit on either side of the eastern entrance path.

Stone carvings of the temple proper (1st enclosure)

The carvings at the temple proper of Ta Som are in a relatively sound condition, although you will easily find many of them being defaced by Hindu fanatics – just like at almost all Buddhist temples constructed in the Bayon period. Ta Som‘s stone carvings are of higher-quality craftsmanship than those at other contemporary temples. Bayon-style panels usually appear to be worked out more hastily than those of previous periods. There are some remarkable features of Ta Som:

  • The Devata (often called ‘Apsara’) carvings show an uncommon individuality compared to other Bayon-style sculptures, although not coming close to the uniqueness and perfection of Devatas or Apsaras from the previous Angkor Wat period.
  • As mentioned, the Northern Gopuram’s northern pediment, which is of similar size as the one outside the first enclosure on the opposite southern side, was reconstructed recently by the WMF and the APSARA Authority. In contrast to its counterpart on the opposite side of the temple proper, the Lokeshvara statue in the centre of the relief was destroyed by iconoclasts.

  • Well-preserved in situ reliefs are found in the gallery of the temple proper (first enclosure), too. For example, the restored south pediment of the north Gopuram (inside the first enclosure or central courtyard) shows a smaller Lokeshvara, with four praying figures on lotus buds at his feed. The stems of the buds are depicted, too, emerging from the pond on a single stem. The standing Lokeshvara is totally defaced.
  • In the south-west section of the courtyard, there are more examples of Lokeshvara carvings on the ground. An excellent one has a defaced Buddhisattva between Vishnu on the left and Brahma on the right, over two rows of worshippers.
  • Besides the pediment carvings, there is a pillar with a peg on the top. The symbolism is unknown. Similar stelae are found at contemporary Bayon style temples, e.g. two at Preah Khan and one at Banteay Prei.
  • On the north-facing door of the southern Gopuram is a pediment the upper part of which has just the traces of the Bodhisattva being tortured over two rows of worshippers. It’s not easily recognizable. There are better carvings depicting the tortured Bodhisattvas at Preah Khan. This is a less common theme in Khmer art, but actually therea are some more temples from the Bayon period with carvings depicting a Bodhisattva being tortured, namely Ta Prohm, Banteay Kdei, Preah Palilay, and Banteay Thom in Angkor as well as Wat Nokor in Kampong Cham and Ta Prohm of Tonle Bati. Usually the tortured Bodhisattva is seated in the gesture of meditation, which is called Samadhi Mudra. The theme of the ‘tortured Bodhisattva’ or ‘maltreated Lokeshvara” is probably intended to emphasize the imperturbability of an enlightened being during his meditation.

  • The west-facing pediment over the eastern gopura has an unfinished Lokeshvara venerated by two figures with simple crowns, perhaps depicting royal rishis. In the register below are several more royal figures, shown in praying attitudes. Beside them is a bull whose presence is somehat puzzling. Although he is depicted as a Zebu and thereby seems to represent a typical Nandi, he could also be sacrificial animal. Integration of Shivaite elements in Buddhist art depicting Bodhisattvas is quite common, but a Nandi, the sacred animal of Lord Shiva, is usually not seen in Buddhist carvings.

Planning Your Visit to Ta Som

Temple Facts

  • Date: Late 12th century AD
  • Religion: Buddhism
  • Built By: Jayavarman VII
  • Dedicated To: Dharanindravarman II
  • Style: Bayon
  • Best Time to Visit: Anytime
  • Length of Visit: 30 - 60 minutes
  • Temple Pass: Required (included in the pass to the whole Angkor Complex)


Ta Som is situated 7.5 km to the northeast of Angkor Wat, as the crow flies, or 12 km by road. Among the temples within the forest-covered Angkor Park, Ta Som is the furthest one, as it is situated close to the northeastern corner of the Grand Circuit or Grand Tour. Distance from the Old Market in Siem Reap is 18 km. Close-by attractions are East Mebon 2.5 to the south and Neak Pean 2 km to the east.

Historically, Ta Som is located only slightly north to the east-west axis of Preah Khan and the ‘Preah Khan Baray’, Angkor’s huge northern reservoir the central island of which is Neak Pean. Ta Som lies at the foot of this northern Baray's eastern embankment.

Check below the location of Ta Som on Google Maps for your reference:

Getting There

Most visitors will follow the grand tour heading north out of Angkor Thom. Continue following the road around Preah Khan temple. After the Preah Khan temple complex, continue heading east along the road adjacent to the baray. Continue past Neak Pean to the other end of the baray and follow the road round to the right. You’ll see Ta Som on the left hand side about 100m from the road.

If you are coming from the east side of Angkor Wat or directly from Siem Reap town, you should take the road to Srah Srang. Once you get to Srah Srang, turn right and follow the road to Pre Rup and turn left. Continue heading north to the Eastern Mebon and keep going north for another couple of kilometres. You’ll see the Jayatataka baray on the left side and after around 200m, you’ll see Ta Som on the right side.

Best time to visit

In contrast to most other temples, early morning and late evening are not the best times to visit Ta Som, because the carvings and also the gate-covering Banyan tree are close to trees and wall. That’s why they are in the shadow most of the time. 

Cloudless sky provided, the sunlight reaches and brightens the east gate’s picturesque strangler fig only between 10.00 am ans 11.00 am. This is also a good time to see the panels of Ta Som‘s imposing Mahayana Buddhist stone carvings, most of which are placed on the ground now. 

Early afternoon is good to see them in the sunlight, too, but this is not a good time any more to take pictures of the spectacular east-gate tree. Starting your round tour at the lake of Srah Srang about 9.00 am to first visit the temple pyramids of Pre Rup and East Mebon, which are on the way, the visitor can easily reach the car park at the western gate of Ta Som around 11.00 am. 

The famous tree is at the opposite side of the compound, but it’s within 5 minutes walking distance.

Ta Som Tours

Ta Som is featured on the Grand Circuit Tour and is usually visited after Neak Pean and before Pre Rup temple. It’s one of the more popular temples on the tourist trail and does attract quite a few visitors. However, it doesn’t get anywhere near as many visitors as the other popular temples such as Angkor Wat, Bayon, and Ta Prohm.

Check out the collection of Angkor Wat Tours


You will find a few hotels sharing the same name as Ta Som, but none are nearby the temple! There are no hotels allowed in the Angkor Park, but as Ta Som is on the edge of the park, you may find some small homestays in the villages around Banteay Srei.

Most visitors will find a hotel in Siem Reap town where there are 100s to choose from. As Ta Som is on the main road, it is easy to reach from the town.

Here is our Siem Reap Travel Guide

Why Visit Ta Som?

You should try to visit Ta Som because it has been wonderfully restored and nearly every part of the temple is open to visitors. You can see some great examples of ancient Khmer art from the Buddhist period of King Jayavarman VII. There is also a tree growing through the east entrance building which makes for some great photos.

Layout and Design of Ta Som

Ta Som features a single tower in the middle of the complex surrounded by three enclosing walls. The entry points on the east and west have four carved faces. One looking into each cardinal direction.

As you go through the main entry tower, you will see what was once the main causeway flanked by serpents, although very little is left today. As you walk through the second entry tower, you will come to the inner enclosure. From here, you will see the main tower directly in front of you. This inner enclosure was made from laterite and features sandstone galleries and pavilions. There are stones laying around.

As you reach the central sanctuary, you can either walk around the courtyard or directly through the middle to reach the other side. You can walk right through to the east side where you will see a large tree with roots growing through the east entrance building.

History of Ta Som

King Jayavarman VII. presumably dedicated the temple to his father Dharanindravarman II (Paramanishkalapada) who had been king of the Khmer Empire from 1150 to 1160. Preah Khan at the opposite end of the 3,5 km long reservoir named Jayatataka is dedicated to Jayavarman’s father, too.

Many of the carvings were likely purposefully destroyed in the 15th or 16th century and lay in a state of ruins for many centuries.

According to the APSARA National Authority, who adminster all temples in the Angkor Park, little restoration work had been done at the Ta Som temple during the colonial period prior to Cambodia’s independence in the 1950s. In the subsequent years, only some propping of structures that were near collapse was carried out.

During the period of the Red Khmers and civil war, Ta Som was used as a guerilla hospital in the jungle.

Only after the end of the civil war, restorations works were resumed. The Ta Som Conservation Project was launched in 1998 with the support of the World Monumets Fund (WMF). This was the first project by WMF staff, but many workers had previously been trained during the restoration of Preah Khan. 

Again, their first task was emergency stabilisation of the structure to make it safe for visitors. Additional clearing measures  were taken to allow easier access. The Ta Som Condervation Project followed a policy of minimal intervention. 

Particularly the great West and East Gopuras of the first enclosure (inner courtyard) were repaired. During the more recent phase, new stone blocks were prepared for consolidation and structural stabilisation of North and South Gopuras of this main complex. 

In 2007, WMF and the APSARA Authority conducted clearing and documentation works that allowed the temple to be accessed from all four sides. Many fallen-down and broken sandstone blocks were repaired to reconst the North Central Fronton of the North Gopura. The Ta Som restoration program was completed in 2012.

Photos of Ta Som

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Taking a cruise on the fascinating Mekong River offers a unique and memorable travel experience. The Mekong River, one of the longest rivers in Asia, flows through several countries, including China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Each destination along the river offers its own distinct cultural, historical, and natural attractions. In this article, we will go over what you can expect when cruising the Mekong River. 


Preah Vihear Temple (Prasat Preah Vihear) is an ancient Hindu temple built during the period of the Khmer Empire, that is situated atop a 525-metre (1,722 ft) cliff in the Dângrêk Mountains, in the Preah Vihear province, Cambodia. In 1962, following a lengthy dispute between Cambodia and Thailand over ownership, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague ruled that the temple is in Cambodia.

Affording a view for many kilometers across a plain, Prasat Preah Vihear has the most spectacular setting of all the temples built during the six-century-long Khmer Empire. As a key edifice of the empire's spiritual life, it was supported and modified by successive kings and so bears elements of several architectural styles.

Preah Vihear is unusual among Khmer temples in being constructed along a long north–south axis, rather than having the conventional rectangular plan with orientation toward the east. The temple gives its name to Cambodia's Preah Vihear province, in which it is now located, as well as the Khao Phra Wihan National Park which borders it in Thailand's Sisaket province, though it is no longer accessible from Thailand.

On July 7, 2008, Preah Vihear was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Deep in the forests of Cambodia’s Siem Reap province, the elegant spires of an ancient stone city soar skyward above the sprawling complex of Angkor Archaeological Park.

The Khmer Empire’s various capitals thrived here from the 9th to 15th centuries, while their rulers presided over an empire that stretched from Myanmar (Burma) to Vietnam. Including forested areas and newly discovered “suburbs” Angkor covers more than 400 square kilometers.

Though just one of hundreds of surviving temples and structures, the massive Angkor Wat is the most famed of all Cambodia’s temples - it appears on the nation’s flag - and it is revered for good reason. The 12th century “temple-mountain” was built as a spiritual home for the Hindu god Vishnu. The temple is an architectural triumph laden with artistic treasures like the bas-relief galleries that line many walls and tell enduring tales of Cambodian history and legend.

In other parts of Angkor such art depicts scenes of daily life - offering scholars a precious window into the past.

Reading the below epic guide for Angkor Archaeological Park, you will have all the information you need from its history, maps, best time to visit and so on to have the best out of your Angkor tours


Banteay Kdei Temple (Prasat Banteay Kdei), meaning "A Citadel of Chambers", also known as "Citadel of Monks' cells", is a Buddhist temple in Angkor, Cambodia. It is located southeast of Ta Prohm and east of Angkor Thom. 

Built in the mid-12th to early 13th centuries AD during the reign of Jayavarman VII (who was posthumously given the title "Maha paramasangata pada"), it is in the Bayon architectural style, similar in plan to Ta Prohm and Preah Khan, but less complex and smaller. Its structures are contained within two successive enclosure walls and consist of two concentric galleries from which emerge towers, preceded to the east by a cloister.

This Buddhist monastic complex is currently dilapidated due to faulty construction and poor quality of sandstone used in its buildings and is now undergoing renovation. Banteay Kdei had been occupied by monks at various intervals over the centuries till 1960s.


Just east of Angkor Thom’s Victory Gate is Chau Say Tevoda. It was probably built during the second quarter of the 12th century, under the reign of Suryavarman II, and dedicated to Shiva and Vishnu. It has been renovated by the Chinese to bring it up to the condition of its twin temple, Thommanon.


Thommanon Temple is a Hindu temple site that's covered in intricate carvings and surrounded by forests in Angkor. The temple is in relatively excellent condition, thanks to extensive restoration work in the 1960s.

It was constructed about the same time as Angkor Wat. The style of architecture is quite evident in the towers and carvings, which are in very good condition. During the rainy season, the dampened sandstone offers great photo opportunities.

Part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the complex dates back between the 11th and 12th centuries. It is about 600 metres east of the Victory Gate of Angkor Thom, just opposite Chau Say Tevoda. Even before restoration, Thommanon was in much a better condition than Chau Say Tevoda. Unlike the latter, which was built using wooden beams enclosed in stone, Thommanon Temple's entire structure was made out of stone. 


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