The object of a longstanding territorial dispute between Cambodia and Thailand, which has at times turned lethal, Prasat Preah Vihear is one of the kingdom’s most stunning creations, not just because of the temple itself but thanks to the spectacular views across northwest Cambodia afforded from atop the 650 metre-high cliffs at the temple’s apex.
Access to and security at the temple has vastly improved in the last few years, with a smooth new road from the nearby town of Sra’Aem and a cessation in hostilities between the neighbouring nations for whom the temple’s disputed status has too often become a convenient kicking ball for political parties keen to distract electorates or whip up nationalistic fervour. It is an acutely cynical kind of politics that has cost lives and resulted in entire communities being displaced as rockets rained down on villages around Sra’Aem and beyond. International teams who surveyed the areas after the conflict in 2011 found evidence of banned cluster munitions fired by Thailand, which will continue to exact a toll on farmers and other land users.
Old Cambodia hands wax nostalgically about how the road to Preah Vihear temple used to be not much wider than the wheels on their motorbikes, and in need of frequent thrashing to clear vegetation. And that was before you got to the tough bit. The temple starts 525 metres up virtually sheer cliffs, whose inaccessibility to any but the hardiest meant that for a long time the only way to get there was from the ... Travelfish members only (Full text is around 700 words.)
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