And today, continuing to head on north from Koh Ker, right up against the Thailand border — in fact, Thailand disputes its ownership and got in rather a snit when the International Court of Justice awarded it to Cambodia — we come to the last of our visits to Cambodia’s currently inscribed and tentative World Heritage sites:
Situated on the edge of a plateau that dominates the plain of Cambodia, the Temple of Preah Vihear is dedicated to Shiva. The Temple is composed of a series of sanctuaries linked by a system of pavements and staircases over an 800 metre long axis and dates back to the first half of the 11th century AD. Nevertheless, its complex history can be traced to the 9th century, when the hermitage was founded. This site is particularly well preserved, mainly due to its remote location. The site is exceptional for the quality of its architecture, which is adapted to the natural environment and the religious function of the temple, as well as for the exceptional quality of its carved stone ornamentation.
It is quite a ways to get out here, but you can do it in a long day trip from Siem Reap — and it’s definitely worth the trip just for the mountaintop setting, never mind the temples…
… although as you can see above, those are pretty impressive too, with some of the most intricate carvings to be seen anywhere in these parts:
It’s an intriguing layout, too; none of the temples are individually all that large, they’re built at intervals astride a wide paved path leading up the mountain one after another
some just a temple, some an enclosed compound,
stretching for 800 meters up the mountain in all. Which feels like considerably more when you’re walking up it!
Once you finally make it to the top, you’re rewarded with the most finely carved temple of all,
which is in fact still in active use,
and a really quite stunning panoramic view commanding the fields to the north in what’s now Thailand:
So although it does take some effort and expense to get this far off the beaten tourist track, we thoroughly recommend you hire a driver in Siem Reap to make that effort, this hilltop sanctuary is right up there with Angkor for a memorable visit!