This is one of the many temples built by the Buddhist ruler King Jayavarman VII in the late 12th and early 13th century. It is situated near the north-west corner of the Angkor reservoir East Baray, which is now dry.
Ta Nei has no car park, it is located in the forest and can only be reached with smaller vehicles, by using a track across the forest. It starts at the corner of the Small Circuit Road, a few hundred metres east of Ta Keo and north of Ta Prohm. Better you ask a driver or guide who already visited Ta Nei. The advantage of its secluded location is: This romantic temple is not crowded with tourists as the nearby (admittedly much more exciting) Ta Prohm jungle temple. Ta Nei offers one of the few chances to experience a kind of Angkor exploration or to fullfill one's dreams of visiting the ancient temple ruins hidden in the jungle. Ta Nei can not only be called a "jungle temple", in Ta Nei you can listen to the sounds of animals instead of hearing clicking cameras or noisy groups of amused travellers. So Ta Nei can be counted as one of the insider tipps for Angkor enthusiasts.
During the era of Jayavarman VII the Ta Nei temple was planned to be 35 metres long and 26 metres wide. Later on the temple proper was extended eastwards to a total length 46 metres. Finally it reached 55 metres length and 47 metres width during the reign of Indravarman II (ca. 1220-43). So it is one of the last flat temples constructed in the Angkor period. In Angkor there are only small isolated towers such as Mangalartha dating from a later period than the completed Ta Nei complex.
The main entrance Gopuram faces a terrace on the east side. Two Prasat towers in the main axis dominate the temple court. The one in the east originally was a Gopuram gate in the first east wing gallery, before the temple was extended. The other tower further west is the original sanctuary, it is connected by a smaller chamber to the northern Gopuram. Besides the two central Prasats and this chamber, there is a library building, it was erected near the south side, now it is partly collapsed. The whole temple court is surrounded by more sandstone temple towers of Gopurams, they are connected by roofed corridors along the temple walls. These galleries are built from laterite.
Many of the structures in the temple court have collapsed and it is difficult to walk around over stones and boulders. Nevertheless, this is exactly why Ta Nei is an extraordinary Khmer temple experience and worth a visit.
There is not as much decoration as at the bigger Buddhist sanctuaries of the very same period, such as Ta Prohm and Preah Khan or Banteay Kdei and Ta Som. However, enough Apsaras and pediment carvings in a pretty sound condition can be discovered at Ta Nei. They were less effected by the anti-Buddhist vandalism during the Hindu resurgence under Jayavarman VIII than those at other Bayon style temples. Some of Ta Nei's stone carvings depict quite unusual topics. On the north pediment of the Prasat there is a person on a boat giving a blessing, flying figures carry parasols. On the north side of the south-western Gopuram is a kneeling figure blessing children inside a palace. On the south facade of the north-west Gopuram there is a horseman wielding a sword. In the western Gopuram you can find a former pediment on the ground depicting two donors above a Kala face.
You certainly will also notice modern technical equipment put up inside the temple court, it is a small weather station for investigations about the impact of climate conditions on stone.
There is no specific time of the day to be mentioned here as perfect for a visit. The Angkor ticket will not be checked at the monument, but near the Angkor Wat, at the access roads from Siem Reap.