Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung

Marvelous Khmer ruins

Prasat Phanom Rung and its sister site, Muang Tam, are probably the best preserved and most spectacular set of Khmer ruins in Thailand. They’re located in southern Buriram province, some 50 kilometres north of the Cambodian border and 27 kilometres southeast of the small city of Nang Rong. Yes, Phanom Rung is worth a trip into the middle of nowhere.

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Situated high above rice paddies on an extinct volcano, Phanom Rung was a religious sanctuary built between the 9th and 12th centuries as part of the larger Angkor Empire. The temple was dedicated to the Hindu god, Shiva, with the 402-metre-high volcano subbing for India’s Mount Kailash as the god’s heavenly abode. Reached by a dramatic stone stairway and punctuated by several exquisite lintels, “heavenly” is the right word.

Just a walk up the stairs. : David Luekens.
Just a walk up the stairs. Photo: David Luekens

A quick ride southeast of Phanom Rung takes you to Muang Tam, another impressive site that was once part of a bustling Khmer city. A single 150-baht ticket gets you entry to both sites. Several smaller Khmer ruins can also be visited while in the area, including the haunting Ta Muan in the far southwestern corner of neighbouring Surin province. Many of the locals speak a Khmer dialect, getting their water from reservoirs built by their distant Khmer ancestors.

Surprising given the splendour of Phanom Rung and the typical Thai penchant for constructing 20 small hotels around anything with a hint of tourism potential, there’s virtually no tourism infrastructure in the villages closest to the ruins. Most visitors come on a day trip from Surin or Buriram towns, both around 80 kilometres to the north and northeast, or settle into Nang Rong for a ... Travelfish members only (Full text is around 500 words.)

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