Exploring Koh Ker in Preah Vihear, Cambodia
Koh Ker in Preah Vihear Province, declared a tentative UNESCO world heritage site in 1998, is a remote and off the beaten track temple built approximately around 928AD. Since it is located in the Dangrek mountain range, between the Kulen and Tbeng mountains in Cambodia, traveling the remote roads to this temple takes some time, but it is well worth it.
King Jayavarman IV made Koh Ker the new capital when he took the throne. It was originally constructed to honor the Hindu gods Shiva and Vishnu and remains an archaeological marvel up until now. Most of the structures use a mix of sandstone, natural stone, and laterite.
Built as a pyramid temple with a walled city surrounding a main reservoir, Koh Ker has other temples, or Linga shrines, surrounding it: we invite you to get lost and explore the “city of brightness,” or Chok Gargyar as it was previously called. The Rahal Baray is the center point of Koh Ker: it was a reservoir that was built around solid rock formations to support the Khmer people. From here, you can circle around visit all the nearby temples. But first, don’t forget to climb to the top of the great pyramid and take the perfect snapshot from above!
Walking around the largest temple, Prasat Thom, you will see trees growing wildly throughout the temple attempting to take it back into the jungle, being sparsely populated compared to the more popular Angkor Wat: Koh Ker really gives visitors a sense of wonder while exploring a lost civilization. A majority of the sanctuaries are still hidden in the dense forest and have not been fully excavated. The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, with the support of UNESCO, have started a project work to preserve this incredible site, it is an invaluable testament to the Cambodia’s cultural heritage.
More than 180 shrines were found in this cultural landmark; but only about two dozen monuments are accessible to tourists. Prasat Krchap is one of the more intact structures with inscriptions and stone reliefs around the temple. Further down the path, Prasat Bantey Pee Chean has two libraries where they inscribed ancient Khmer history: you might notice how the stones have a reddish hue to them, this is due to the high iron content in the bricks.
Meandering towards the Prasat Damrei, the highlight of this temple is the large sandstone elephants that have stood the test of time and remain intact. Don’t miss the southern section of the city, Prasat Pram has two towers with strangler fig trees intertwined in them. They definitely give off a lost temple ambiance: don’t forget to grab your Fedora, leather jacket, and messenger bag when exploring the ruins!
If you are interested in exploring Koh Ker and the surround temples, or interested in visiting the other places in Preah Vihear Province, please send our team a message at [email protected].