Beyond the Ruins of Angkor Wat
Most people visit Cambodia to see the Ancient ruins of Angkor Wat – the center of the Khmer Empire during its zenith – and yet fascinating sites can be found all over Cambodia, like for example, the ancient ruins at Tonle Bati just outside the capital, Phnom Penh.
Only a 30 km drive from the capital, Tonle Bati is home to Ta Prohm temple, a small but impressive lateritic and sandstone structure, built by King Jayavarman VII – the king of the Khmer Empire from the late 12th to early 13th century – to house the Jayabuddhamahanatha statues. Nearby, only 200m north of Ta Prohm, is the sparse remains of Yeay Peau Temple, thought to be named after the king’s mother, or perhaps a female protecting spirit.
Tonle Bati Lake is also a popular weekend destination and fishing spot for locals from Phnom Penh as well as tourists. The large picnic area on the southern shore of the lake has picturesque bamboo huts built over the water on stilts that can be rented out for picnics. A nearby silk weaving village is another popular attraction where visitors can learn about the local silk trade.
From Tonle Bati it is only another 50 km to Angkor Borei and Phnom Da, the ancient sites of Funan – a kingdom predating the Khmer Empire, which was centred in what is now Vietnam on the Mekong Delta and thought to have existed from the first to the sixth century CE.
After visiting Angkor Borei, it is even possible to continue on to Phnom Da by boat, but it also depends on the season. The hill of Phnom Da contains an 11th Century temple that is still standing, and earliest dated archaeological material from its site had been recorded as far back as 400 BCE.
On the return trip to Phnom Penh, visit Phnom Chisor, a 133m-high hill in Dok Por village, only 42 km south of the capital. At the top of the hill is an Angkorian temple constructed of laterite and bricks that dates back to the reign of King Suryavarman I in the 11th century, who practiced Brahmanism. The temple was once dedicated to the Hindu divinities Shiva and Vishnu and was originally called Sri Suryaparvata, which translates in Sanskrit as ‘The Mountain of Surya’.
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