Lost in Cambodia (p.1)
There is not only Angkor in Cambodia, far from it! This country is full of forgotten temples, lost in the middle of the jungle, survivors of time, wars and looting.
Far from having seen them all, I give you here my favorites and tips to discover the temples far from the crowds.
Discover Cambodia differently: head to the temples
All transports are good to reach the hidden temples of Cambodia: bus, van, tuk-tuk, moto-dop, bike … And to do well, we must combine all! Here are the 6 sites I visited, grouped in the north west part of the country:
Sambor Prei Kuk
1.Sambor Prei Kuk: the silence after the bombs
The site of Sambor Prei Kuk is the largest set of pre-Angkorian ruins (seventh century), with more than a hundred brick temples.
Unfortunately, the ravages of time are not the only evils that these constructions were to suffer: the war and the Khmer Rouge (as well as the bombing of the American air force at the beginning of the 1970s to liberate Cambodia from the Khmer Rouge) is the reason of disappearance’s temples.
The refreshing shade of the forest makes it possible to visit the ruins without feeling overwhelmed by the heat, and to dive into a strange and silent universe. Because the forest is strangely calm … Our guide explains that there are very few animals now, following the bombing that took place in the region: “All parties animals”. This silence a little heavy makes the ruins even more impressive.
The temples are all similar and all different at the same time. If a common style unites them, there are all sizes and shapes (or almost!): Octagonal, hexagonal and rectangular.
The trees (still and always) and their impressive roots take possession of the stones, interfering between the bricks, like a river flowing between the rocks.
The Lion’s Temple: an imposing structure that is always guarded by its two lions’ statues, standing guard.
Budget and route
Price: $ 3 + 2,000 riels parking; Guide: $ 7 – more guides at the entrance than visitors to all the site, we found very easily a english speaking guide (although it took us a few minutes to get to understand it).
Transport: about 30km from Kompong Thom, 1h tuk-tuk (and a little less by motorcycle-dop) through dirt roads in the countryside for about $ 15.
2.Phnom Santuk: watch out for the monkeys!
We change completely of atmosphere with the second site to see on the side of the city of Kompong Thom. Arrived at the foot of the temples, you must first climb the 809 steps (the numbering of the steps along the ramp keeps the account!) And pass between the hungry monkey strips. Above all, do not go out of food: it makes them aggressive!
The summit of this small mountain (207m) is home to several temples, mixing eras and styles. One of the temples is still in activity, with monks with pretty orange dresses that bring a colorful and serene touch.
Each temple has its particularity, and that is what is pleasant: one can walk around the site and discover more isolated places with statues, bridges, temples … and monks who take naps anywhere!
Just for the staircase, this temple is worth it: we would have thought in the middle of a fairy tale or in a manga.
Then to see monkeys in freedom, to cross with a nonchalant step the steps while we sweat with big tastes, is very nice: it makes forget the effort and then it puts a little life in this forest!
The specialty of places: the reclining Buddhas.
Budget and route
Price: $ 2
Journey: about 20km from Kompong Thom. We have combined this site with the silkworm farm (Santuk silkworm farm) and the village of Kakaoh, famous for its stonemasons who create Buddha statues and others at a frantic pace. Count a big half-day for the tour (and $ 15 for a tuk-tuk), with the possibility of eating a typical Khmer meal at the silkworm ($ 5).
3.Preah Khan: the faces of the jungle
First site of our road trip to discover the temples in the jungle (Kompong Thom departure – arrival Siem Reap), Preah Khan is very difficult to access, which makes it a place little visited despite the great interest of the place.
This site is the largest set of temples built during the Angkorian period (5 km²). Dating back to the 9th century, this structure would be the second largest city in the Angkor Empire.
Consisting of three sites: the elephant pyramid (Prasat Damrei), the temple faces (Prasat Preah Stung or Muk Buon, reminiscent of the famous Bayon temple) and finally Preah Khan, surrounded by moats.
The temple topped faces is small, but very beautiful and completely collapsed everywhere, giving video tunes to the Tomb Raider.
The Preah Khan, final bouquet of the fireworks, is gigantic, the door in front of the moat bridge being only a first facade before a second door in which a gigantic tree with sprawling roots has intruded: I loved! I had to take a picture a dozen times.
Budget and route
Price: $ 5
Transport: from Kompong Thom: 2h by car (I do not dare to imagine the tuk-tuk ride, and say we almost did it! The road is dusty and in very bad condition). There is no public transport to the site or the nearest village (Ta Seng). The places are even more difficult to access the rainy season (best time to visit Preah Khan: from January to April).