Photo: Older than Angkor itself.

Sambor Prei Kuk

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A site older than Angkor lost in tranquil forests, Sambor Prei Kuk is even more mysterious (and to some, lovely) than the more famous temples to the west.





In a cool and peacefully leafy setting, beautiful 1,200-year-old brick temples combine with nature to create an environment that showcases the best of both worlds across three primary sites, each with northern, central and southern enclosures.

There is a temple in there somewhere, Prasat Chrei. Photo taken in or around Sambor Prei Kuk, Kompong Thom, Cambodia by Stuart McDonald.

There is a temple in there somewhere, Prasat Chrei. Photo: Stuart McDonald

Most of the temples are made of warm red brick, with sandstone elements in, for example, the ornately carved lintels. It was customary for ancient Khmer elites to associate themselves with the Hindu Brahmanical Gods: Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the preserver) and Shiva (the destroyer), though mostly with Shiva. The shape of the temple towers indicates which God they have been dedicated to, with squares representing Brahma and octagons Vishnu. Within the temple structures, the linga representing Shiva are protected.

Some of the temples in the northern complex are associated with the Chenla Kingdom’s first king, Bhavavarman I, while Isanavarman is chiefly associated with the central group. King Jayavarman I, who ruled between 657 and 690 (approximately), is thought to have built the southern group.

Restoration work (now complete) at Prasat Sambor some years ago. Photo taken in or around Sambor Prei Kuk, Kompong Thom, Cambodia by Nicky Sullivan.

Restoration work (now complete) at Prasat Sambor some years ago. Photo: Nicky Sullivan

Aside from centuries of neglect during which the temples became so overrun that early French explorers could stand within 150 metres of them without being able to discern their presence, the temples also suffered from American bombing during the Vietnam War. More than 100 temples or sanctuaries still stand on this site, but there were once many, many more. You can still see evidence of craters left behind by the bombs, and the area was once sown with ordinance and ... please log in to read the rest of this story.


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Sambor Prei Kuk
About 30 km northeast of Kompong Thom town
Admission: $10

Location map for Sambor Prei Kuk

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