I mentioned in my previous post that my trip to Cambodia in 2019 had been primarily made up of temple hopping.
Basing ourselves in Siem Reap, we had explored Angkor Wat again (in great detail!), but also ventured up to Preah Vihear, a temple perched high on a mountain top on the Cambodian/Thai border.
This was a (very long!) day trip and on the way back from Preah Vihear, we wanted to stop off at another complex called Koh Ker.
Koh Ker is located about 100km from Siem Reap and is a large complex which remains largely unexplored.
The main attraction here is Prasat Thom, a temple complex which contains a very unusual 7 tier step pyramid called ‘Prang’, which looks like it would more at home amongst the Mayan ruins in Mexico, rather than buried in the jungles of Cambodia.
Koh Ker was an ancient city built by Jayavarman IV and it was briefly the capital of the Khmer empire between 928 to 944 AD.
Having driven up to visit Preah Vihear (a long drive from Siem Reap!) which was the main attraction of the day trip, we also wanted to stop and see Koh Ker on the way back.
It was about a 2 hour journey from Preah Vihear to Koh Ker and I must admit that I was flagging quite badly by the time we arrived. I had hardly eaten anything and it was hot, hot, hot! Still, we couldn’t miss it, the complex sounded quite different to others we had seen and I was intrigued by the main attraction, Prasat Thom.
The road towards the complex was empty, dusty and rough. Our driver bumped us towards the temple very carefully and we wondered where on earth we were being taken!
On arrival we were faced with a walk through the outer temples which were in various states of disrepair, but were being fixed up by some workmen.
We picked our way through these ruins, sweating (it was so hot, there was no glowing going on!) and swatting away the mosquitoes.
There was no-one else around apart from the workmen, it was so peaceful.
After wandering around a while taking in the beauty of the surroundings, we finally found what we were looking for.
We were faced with this temple which was quite awe inspiring! I had not really expected something quite so impressive!
We passed some people on their way out but there was no-one else there, so we walked quietly around the base of the temple…or in my case, I dragged myself around!
As we neared the North side of the temple, we saw that there was a wooden staircase that scaled the side of it.
And what is one to do when faced with a wooden staircase up the side of an ancient temple??!!
My partner of course wanted to scale it, and me being me, didn’t want to be left behind, even though I really didn’t like the look of that staircase!
So once again I took a deep breath and told myself that I couldn’t not get to the top (there is a recurring theme going on here!!), who knew if I would ever return to see it again.
A deep breath and I started the ascent. My partner trotted easily up the wobbly, wooden steps, stopping on one platform to wait for me. I looked up at him and I completely froze. At this point local children were scampering up and down the staircase, looking at me in bewilderment and amusement! I couldn’t go up and I couldn’t go down, all I could see was the space between me and the ground.
I took deep breaths and repeated ‘it’s all fine, it’s all fine, it’s all fine’ under my breath as I shakily took step after step upwards, my partner encouraging each movement.
Wow, was it difficult!
But slowly I made my way to the top, which was now quite crowded with a few local families and a couple of other tourists. I found a comfortable stone and rooted myself to the spot, whilst everyone else moved around me. I almost had a heart attack when many of them, my partner included, clamboured up on the stones at the front of the temple to get a better look at the view!!
I have to admit though, when I did look around the view was pretty impressive. You could see for miles in each direction and it gave us the sense as to how secluded this complex is.
I was so glad that I had made the effort though and when it came to departing, I found that getting down was a hell of a lot easier than getting up there!!
After the exertion, we took our time wandering back out, there was something about the space that was really quite calming.
On the way back out of the complex, we stopped at two other monuments.
The first being the very striking Prasat Neang Khmau (The Black Lady), which is a really unusual temple because it is black in colour. I’m not entirely sure why, but it seems it might be fire scarred.
We also stopped at Prasat Pram, which is a collection of small towers. Again so very peaceful as there was no-one else around, only the exceptionally loud noise of the local insects! The towers are very atmospheric as they are slowly consumed by the strangler fig trees.
There are a handful of other temples that you could see at the site, however, as we were pushed for time, we couldn’t fit anything else in.
And to be honest, I was pretty impressed with what we had seen anyway….and in desperate need of a sit down!
I loved Koh Ker, it made quite an impression on me, it was so peaceful and I thoroughly enjoyed wondering the ruins in the jungle!
Cost: It was $10 each to enter the complex.
Location: Koh Ker is located approx two hours from Siem Reap. It can be combined with a journey to Preah Vihear as we did, or alternatively with visiting Beng Melea which is also on the way to Koh Ker.
Total cost: We paid $120 for the car and driver for the day.