Banteay Thom is a charming temple where the principal appeal is its rural setting; it’s reached only by sandy tracks through paddy and scrubland where you’re likely to bump into a farmer, ox-cart or nobody en route. Locating the temple is not that easy, but the reward is an Angkorian temple to yourself.
Head past Preah Khan’s west gate then follow the signs down a track to the left to the village of Nokor Krao. Once there, park and follow a footpath for a kilometre or two until you hit the temple. It isn’t easy to find but the villagers will guess why you’re there and will point you in the right direction if you ask for ‘Prasat Banteay Tom’.
Alternatively, driving or cycling out of the West Gate of Angkor Thom, turn right on the sealed main road. There’ll be one bend and continue straight (north) for around three kilometres. You’ll then need to turn right off the road down a narrow sandy track on foot or bicycle — a tuk tuk won’t get down here — that runs parallel to a villager’s house. You’re going to need to bump into someone and say the temple name so they can point you the right way; enlisting the services of a guide will make things easier.
The temple itself, built during the Jayavarman VII period, is in a fairly ruinous state but two central towers still survive along with a ruined library, an eastern gopura in good condition, apsaras and tapestry reliefs and a surrounding covered walkway with some roof sections. A couple of good lintels and some carvings are lying on the ground though you can see evidence of recent looting at this remote site.
Despite its remoteness, bring your temple pass along as there’s sometimes a temple guard on duty — a couple of niche adventure companies started bringing guests here, but in such small numbers and with rarity that you can expect to find it empty. If you’re visiting in wetter months by bike, there may be very short stretches where the paths are under shallow water and you’ll need to walk.
By Caroline Major
Last updated on 21st January, 2015.