Cambodia: Lara Croft Tomb Raider Filming Locations

This film adaptation of a popular video game has probably been forgotten by many but it’s legacy certainly lives on in Cambodia where it is mentioned day in-day out by the thousands of tourists who descend on main location Ta Prohm to see it’s fascinating tree roots which have swallowed up parts of the temple complex.

The action in Cambodia starts on 40 minutes as Lara Croft (Angelina Jolie) is on a mission to retrieve half of the triangular MacGuffin. Before Ta Prohm though, there are a couple of other temples playing cameo roles. Having called in a favour from the Special Forces, she is parachuted down (in her Land Rover no less!) and waves goodbye to the plane which helped her from the Central Sanctuary at Phnom Bakheng.

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This temple, located 400 metres south of Angkor Thom, is an incredibly popular place for tourists to photograph Angkor Wat at sunrise and sunset and is where Lara begins her journey. She gets to work straight away and. looking through her special binoculars, she sees Manfred Powell (Iain Glen) and Alex West (Daniel Craig) getting up to mischief at the East Gate of Angkor Thom. 

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To get to this place involves a 20 minute hike up a hill although elephants are sometime on hand to do the hard work for you. At a cost of course!

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Moments later she prepares her ammunition and shoots off in her Land Rover from in front of the sacred Bayon temple (below) which is the centrepiece of the fortified city of Angkor Thom. Bayon is famed for its enigmatic faces donning the many towers within its three levels. 

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The most famous temple though is of course the aforementioned Ta Prohm which first appears on 42 minutes. This spectacular temple has been swallowed up by the jungle over time and the roots are growing out of the ruins. Lara parks her vehicle at the eastern entry which has seen a lot of restoration work between my two visits in 2007 and 2015.

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A mysterious girl appears and disappears a few times as Croft enters the complex and soon she comes across the huge tree below which is entwined with the ruins.

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Croft wanders around the eerie place for a bit before she finally catches up with the young little girl who points her in the right direction.

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She heads towards the doorway seen below where, having picked a jasmine flower, she falls through the ground…..ending up in Pinewood Studios! Alongside the screenshot is a photo I took on New Years Day 2007 as the place has changed a bit since then and is now more restrictive with the area roped off from the public who can only view it from a boardwalk.

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World Heritage site Angkor Wat appears on the hour mark and appears to be looming over a lake bursting with waterlilies and boating villagers. There are mixed reports on this one with some saying this elaborate floating village was constructed on the northern pond. Others refute that and say it was just a set with CGI used to add the worlds largest religious building into the background.

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Whilst there are a couple of pools at Angkor Wat, there is no activity on them whatsoever. Croft comes ashore asking a monk in Khmer language where she can make an international call.

You can read ‘Cambodia 2015 Pt VI: Kampot‘ here

Click here to see the London filming locations of ‘Lara Croft: Tomb Raider‘ (2001)

Click here to see the Hong Kong filming locations of ‘Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle Of Life’ (2003)

Angkor Wat Filming Locations: Tomb Raider

No messing around on day one for us in Siem Reap as once we had forked out $40 for our 3-day pass we set off to see the big one. Having become accustomed to the carnival fanfare of tourist traps we were pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t really overflowing but thats maybe mainly due to its huge size. That was to come at the ‘Tomb Raider’ based Ta Prohm the following day which was far more compact but as for Angkor Wat it was of course hugely impressive but to really appreciate all the fine archeological and architectural detail you really have to have a strong interest in the subject. What was great was that we could really explore the temples which is not possible at some other world heritage sites but i guess that will also be its downfall inevitably one day as tourism takes its toll on the place. Having split up to explore it i ended up ascending possibly the steepest ever steps that i have experienced. As always going up is the easy bit but i was absolutely bricking it when i saw how steep the descend was.
After looking around for a while this was one such case when a seller offering me a drink got me at the right moment and then i told some little kid that i wanted magnets and overhead postcard shots and before i knew it he was back by my side offering me exactly what i wanted for a dollar. I certainly couldn’t refuse him after that!
Next, we walked to the huge area that makes up Angkor Thom and wandered around the impressive Bayon within that at a leisurely pace as we were already feeling templed out and that was after only day one of three!
Not sure what it was that i ate on day one (or even before that) in Angkor but my stomach was in real pain on our second day as we started out at Ta Prohm which as aforementioned was where Angelina Jolie was filmed for some of ‘Tomb Raider’. I was just feeling so exhausted on that day and to make things worse it was also New Years Eve which is never the best of times to be feeling under the weather.
Cambodia is a country stricken by poverty but theres so many beggars and people selling you tacky souvenirs that it can become tiresome when you hear the whining sounds of “hello sir, you wanna buy? one dollar?” constantly and very persistantly. I had enjoyed the banter with them the day before but wasn’t in such a great mood here but i managed to keep face and in some ways i was a little disappointed that i never did see a tourist screaming at one of the local kids.
We walked for hours ending back at Angkor Wat late afternoon where i slept and woke up in time to see a reasonable sunset and for our new years eve night out we went to a Cambodian club just away from the backpacker area which was the darkest club i’ve ever seen. No expense spared on lighting in this place and not too much celebration at midnight too. The dancefloor cleared at about 11.58pm and we assumed there was gonna be some kind of countdown and celebration but not so as we saw in the new year watching two people blow up balloons on stage in some competition or other. Not quite on a scale with Sydney Harbour, Times Square or Big Ben!!
Our third and final day saw us hire bicycles to go around some of the temples which was nice and enabled us to see a lot more. This time we went back to Ta Prohm just before sunset which was amazing. Not because of the sunset but because it was completely deserted in contrast to the previous days hordes of tourists.
You can see the photos from the temples of Angkor here