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Preah Vihear Province

Preah Vihear province is situated in the north of Cambodia. This province separates Cambodia from Thailand and is one of nine provinces in the Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve. The province got its name from the sacred site of Preah Vihear, a world heritage site.

Preah Vihear is a Khmer Prasat (temple) situated spectacularly atop Pey Tadi, a 525-metre (1720 ft) cliff in the Dangrek Mountains in the province itself.  This temple is 140 km from Angkor Wat and approximately 320 km from Phnom Penh.

Preah Vihear Temple has the most spectacular setting of all the temples built during the six-centuries-long Khmer Empire.  The Temple is composed of a series of sanctuaries linked by a system of pavements and staircases over an 800 metre long axis and is built with a clear view of the plains from where it stands. Dedicated to Shiva, this temple 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. However, although the structure of this temple is very different from the temple ‘mountains’ found at Angkor, it is believed to have been built to serve the same purpose as a stylised representation of Mount Meru, the home of the gods.

Through the energetic efforts of the Royal Government of Cambodia under the wise, brilliant leadership of Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo HUN SEN, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia, Preah Vihear Temple was listed and declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO on July 8, 2008.

Places of Interest:

Preah Vihear Temple
Preah Vihear temple is located in Svay Chhrum village, Kantuot commune, Choam Ksan district, about 108 kilometers north of Preah Vihear provincial town, Tbiang Meanchey. Preah Vihear province was created in 1964 by cutting the land from Stung Treng, Kampong Thom and Siem Reap provinces. The province is at the north of Cambodia, on the plateau that is rich in forests, mountains and streams.

Preah Vihear temple, which is 800 meters long and 400 meters wide, sits atop the 625-meter-high Phnom Preah Vihear in the Dangrek Mountain range on the border of Thailand. The Cambodian side of the mountain is very steep, while the Thai side is gently rolling. There are three ways to reach Preah Vihear temple.
    - From Cambodia by the ancient road Svay Chhrum. There is staircase to the mountaintop
    - From Cambodian by Kor I Road, which has been reconstructed wit concrete. Most local people and sellers go up the mountain by this road.
    - From Thailand, the route most popular with foreign visitors. Foreigners can also get to the temple from the Cambodian side, but the route is very difficult.

Preah Vihear temple is a cultural and historical site. The French handed over the temple to Thailand in 1954. It was returned to Cambodian on June 15, 1962, in a decision rendered by the International Court.

The temple was originally known as Sreisikharesvara, which means the power of the mountain. The temple was built over 300 years in the late 9th and early 12th centuries to worship Shiva Brahmanism by four Kings:

    - King Yasovarman I (AD 889-900 or 910?)
The king built the central tower of Preah Vihea temple. King Yasovarman I built Yasodharapura city and preferred to build the temple on a natural mountaintop.

    - King Suryavarman I (AD 1002-1050)
The king built a long hall next to the central tower, the rampart and three gopuras. According to the temple inscription, the king prepared a ceremony to invite the god Patresvar who stay at Wat Pu (now in Lao) to stay together with the god Sreisikharesvara to protect and take care of the Khmer empire and its people.

    - King Jayavarman VII (AD 1080-1109)
The king  built tow libraries and repaired some parts of the temple.
-    King Suryavarman II (AD 1113-1150)

The king built a terrace with seven-head-nagas, statues of standing lions along the working path and some more naga staircases. He also prepared the inauguration ceremony for the temple and regarded it as a worship place for all kings.

There are many Brahmanism stories sculpted on the fronton of Preah Vihear temple. Two of those stories are very meaningful. One is the story of Victory of Krishna over Bana the Demon King. This story presents the victory to get fresh water from Yumnear River. Another story is about the Churning of the Ocean of Milk.

Koh Ker Temple
Koh Ker was once an ancient capital of Cambodia, located in Srayong Cheung village, Srayong commune, Kulen district, about 49 kilometers west of the provincial town. The Koh Ker complex is on the Chhork Koki highland. It was built by King Jayavaraman VI (AD 928-942). Koh Ker temple is 35 meters high, and its design resembles a seven-stepped stupa. The temple faces west toward Angkor City. It was built to worship Treypuvanesvara, the god of Happiness.

So far, 96 temples have been found in Koh Ker: Da, Rumlum Bey, Beung Veng, Trapiang Prey, Dey Chhnang, Srok Srolao, Lingam, Kuk Srakum, Trapiang Ta, Sophy, Krahom, Andoung, Ang Khna, Teuk Krahom, Damrei Sar, Krarab, Banteay Pichoan, Kuk, Kmao, Thneung, Thom Balang, Rohal, Chamneh, Sampich, Trapiang Svay, Neang Kmao, Pram, Bat, Khnar Chen, Klum, Chrab, Dangtung, Prang, Kampiang….. These temples were not constructed near each other. Today, many of them are no longer standing, and some are buried in the ground. The followings are locations and descriptions of some of the Koh Ker temple.

Neang Khmao Temple
The Koh Ker complex is along a trail that is about 3 kilometers long. The first temple, Neang Khmao sits atop a small hill on the east side of the trail. The temple, which faces west toward Angkor City, is made of sandstone. It is 20 meters high and resembles a stupa. The temple terrace is 2 meters high and divided into three decks. The temple is surrounded by a laterite rampart, 44 meters square and 2 meters high. The rampart has only two openings, one on the east side, and the other on the west. The temple once housed lingam and yoni, but only yoni remains. The lintel sculpture has been damaged, but otherwise, most of the temple is in good condition, while nearly three-quarters of the rampart is good condition.

Pram Temple
About 700 to 800 meters north of Neang Khmao temple is another temple called Pram temple. Constructed of laterite and sandstone, it sits on a small hill surrounded by bushes that block the lingam and the lintel. The main body of the temple is in good condition.

Chen Temple
Farther down the trail is a three-peak temple made of laterite and sandstone. It faces east and is called Chen temple. Inside the temple there is a piece of lingam and remnants of a statue of King Jayavarman IV. A sculpture of garuda’s head on the south lintel is missing. The temple is overgrown by forest.

Preng Well
About 800-900 meters farther, there is the Preng well, which is similar to a pond. Surrounded by stone, it is 20 meters square. The terrace is about 8 centimeters high. The water in the pond is clear, and a nearby tree provides shade for weary visitors looking for a place relax.

Rampart of Koh Ker Temple
Another kilometer down the trail is the rampart of Koh Ker temple. 1 kilometer long and 2 kilometers high, it is made of laterite. Koh Ker temple is the middle of a rampart, surrounded by 20 more temples. Some of the temples are:

Kuk Temple or Gopura
Kuk temple or Gopura is made of sandstone and has a sculpture of lotus petals on the temple fronton. Although the door frame is damaged, most of the temple is in good condition. A Shiva Lingam that once was housed inside has been looted.

Prang Temple
Prang temple is constructed of sandstone and bricks. There are five separate parts of this temple. About 70 percent of the temple is still standing.

Krahom Temple
About 10 meters farther is Kramhom temple. Constructed of brick and shaped like a seven-level pyramid, the temple is decorated with a 20-meter-tall sculpture of lotus petals. Inside the temple, there is a 3-meter-tallstatue of Shiva with eight arms and four heads. The statue is supported by a 1-square-meter base. The statue is seriously damaged, only some parts remain.

Khmao Temple
Farther down is Khmao temple. On the wall and door frame of the temple, there is a partially damaged inscription. Near the temple is a rampart gateway to Kampiang temple. The gateway is a 2-meter staircase. Some sculptures of lotus petals, seven-headed nagas and garudas remain.

Koh Ker Temple
About 300 meters farther to the west is Kampiang or Koh Ker temple. From a distance, the temple looks like a small hill, because it is covered by forest. Up close, however, it is actually a 35-meter-high stupa made of sandstone. It has seven levels, each level about 5 meters above the other. Each deck has a 2-meter-wide terrace, and there is a 55-step staircase to the top. At the top of the temple, there are large statues of garudas supporting Shiva Lingam Treypuvanesvara. Nearby, there is a 4-meter square well, now completely covered by grass. According to local villagers, if a coconut is dropped into this well, it will appear in the pond near Neang Khmao temple. There is vegetation growing on top of the temple and from there visitors have an excellent view of the surrounding landscape, in particular, Phnom Dangrek, Phnom Tbeng, and Kulen district.

To the north of Koh Ker temple is another temple, Damrei Sar temple, but it is heavily damaged. To the northeast, is lingam temple. This temple once housed three Shiva lingams, but some are now damaged.

Bakan or Preah Khan Temples
The Bakan temples are located in Ta Siang Village, Ronakse commune, Sangkum Thmei district, about 105 kilometers southwest of the provincial twon. The temple was built in the reign of King Suryavarman I (AD 1002-1050), on a plain that was a former worship place of the king. The temple is surrounded by two ramparts – inside and outside rampart. Inside each rampart, there are many other temples such as Neang Peou and DAngkao Baodos temples.

The temple was likely a royal palace and worship place. According to historians, the site used to be a hiding palce of King Jayavarman VII before he ascended to the throne in AD 1181 because the style of some construction is similar to the style of Bayon and Ta Prohm temples.

Outside the rampart, there are many other temples such as Preah DAmrei, Preah Thkaol, Ta Prohm, Muk Buon and Preah Stung temples.

Noreay Temple
Noreay temples are located in Krala Peal village, Pring Thom commune, Choam Ksan district, about 32 kilometers northeast of Preah Vihea provincial town. There are three temples stand separate from each other about 200 meters. The first site is surrounded by double rampart which is 100 meters long and 50 meters wide made of laterite. It includes five temples made of sandstone, laterite and brick. The second site was completely damaged only temple based remain. The third site house Preah Noreay, but the temple was seriously damaged only Preah Noreay statue remain.

According to the study, Noreay temples were built at the same tiem with Sambo Preykuk temples in 7 century. The temples are recently completely covered by forest.

Phnom Pralean Temple
Phnom Pralean temple is on a 180 meters small hill located in Krang Dong Village, Preah Kliang commune, Tbiang Meanchey district, about 25 kilometers from the provincial twonThe laterite and sandstone temple, built to worship Brahmanism, is 160 meters long and 60 meters wide. Surrounding the temple is a beautiful nature and abundant fresh airs where a good place to visit is.

Neak Buos Temple
Neak Buos Temple is located in Choam Ksan district, about 75 kilometers north of Tbiang Meanchey provincial town. The laterite, sandstone and brick temple is 50 meters square and built on a plain to worship Brahmanism. It is very difficult to reach the temple because of bad road condition.

Krapum Chhouk Temple
Krapum Chhouk Temple is located in Romdos commune, Rovieng district, about 45 kilometers south of the provincial town. The laterite and sandstone temple was built in the late 10th century to worship Brahmanism.

Kork Beng Temple
Kork Beng temple is located in Wat Prasat Chey Preuk in Kork Beng village, Kampong Pranak commune, Tbiang Meanchey district. The laterite and sandstone temple was built between AD 936 and 951 by a commander named Kork on ordered from King Jayavarman IV. There is a huge Beng tree near the temple. Therefore, the King named the temple Kork Beng. Today only a few stones of the ancient temple remain. The temple, however, was reconstructed with concrete n 1998. The neew temple is 8 meters high and 12 meters square. There is a statue of Bodhisattava in temple center, where the worship place is.

Foot of Phnom Tbeng Wat Bak Kam
Wat Bak Kam is located along Tbeng mountain foot in Bak Kam village, Chhien Muk commune, Tbeng Meanchey district, about 17 kilometes west of the provincial town. The pagoda is 1000 meters long and 400 meters wide. The site offers nice view, forest and fresh air year round. Local villagers usually visit this site during holidays or national festivals.

Beside the pagoda, there is a large rock called Thma Peung Angkam. According to local people, in the past, because of the failure of war with neighboring country, the Khmer commander and his troops hid under that rock. They cultivated rice in a nearby field to support their living. The husked rice under that rock and left the chaff. Later, local viallgers found a lot of chaff under the rock, which is why the place is called Thma Peung Angkam. The rock is also believed to be an important worship site.

Wat Peung Preah Kor
Wat Peung Preah Kor is a worship place located in Mohapol village, Chhean Muk commune, Tbeng meanchey district, next to the foot of Tbeng mountain. The site features beautiful natures and is a good place for local and foreign visitors to relax. Superstitious people believe that the site is very powerful.