Photo: Very little-visited Prei Monti.

Roluos Group

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The Roluos group of temples consists of Bakong, Preah Ko, Lolei and Prei Monti, making for an easy half-day tour from Siem Reap either in the morning or afternoon. The remnants of the first Angkorian capital, Hariharalaya, the temples are found near the contemporary town of Roluos which lends the group its name today.

Located out of the central Angkor Park the temples are found north of Siem Reap, though easily accessible along National Road 6—well past Psar Leu wholesale market. Although it’s a straight cycle on a good, sealed road, it’s not particularly scenic and the quality of driving can be unnerving. You’re best off taking a tuk tuk for the 30-minute journey. Make sure you already have a temple pass—bought from the main ticket office which is not located near Roluos—as it will most likely be checked at all the sites.

What an approach. Photo taken in or around Roluos Group, Angkor, Cambodia by Caroline Major.

What an approach. Photo: Caroline Major

Bakong is the highlight of the group, with its majestic moat and tiered structure providing views of its surrounds. Allow the most time here to take in the fine details at all levels, as well as the modern pagoda in the grounds. Quad bike tour companies incorporate a loop around the walls on some of their itineraries. Outside the walls you can find a couple of small brick towers—one will be impossible to miss in the middle of the road, another is set back essentially in someone’s back garden. Preah Ko is the next most visited of the group, with six sanctuaries.

Once located around Angkor’s first significant baray—a reservoir—there’s little left to remind visitors that the small, crumbling temple of Lolei would once have been an artificial island. Most skip Prei Monti in the group since it is harder to access, but if you want to shave off a temple and save time we’d instead skip Lolei, since there’s not much to look at.

The primary approach. Photo taken in or around Roluos Group, Angkor, Cambodia by Caroline Major.

The primary approach. Photo: Caroline Major

Prei Monti is formed of three brick sanctuaries. Small in stature and historically with less to say for itself than Bakong, it is well worth scouting if you’re making the trip to the Roluos group and fancy more of an adventure, due to its tucked-away location off the main road. Behind the back of Bakong (the west), walk around 250 metres down the road then you will see a helpful sign stating “Prei Monti”. From here follow the windy, sandy trail—only accessible by foot or by bike—less than a kilometre and you’ll hit the ruins. It is bordered by farmland, with tall trees casting their shadows over the jungle-clad temple. This site is well away from the tourist crowds. Back on the main road, it is possible to follow the rusty-coloured track most of the way back to Siem Reap—it runs parallel to National Road 6 where you’ll get views of the countryside instead of buses and lorries.

Around Bakong there are numerous drinks vendors though we’ve yet to find any food worth eating in this area, so plan accordingly. To help ward off temple fatigue you can make a quick stop at Prolung Khmer Pottery and Weaving Centre, on the main road to Bakong when you turn off National Road 6. The two workshops have demonstrations of pottery making and weaving on traditional looms. The kramas—traditional Cambodian colours—come in fun colours and make for great gifts. Alternatively, on the opposite side of the road, you can take a look at traditional puppet making.

Gorgeous lintels. Photo taken in or around Roluos Group, Angkor, Cambodia by Mark Ord.

Gorgeous lintels. Photo: Mark Ord

To extend a visit to the Roluos group into a leisurely day tour from Siem Reap either head back to the main temple complex where the Grand Circuit of temples is one example that fits nicely into a half day, or consider hiring a car for the day and heading out past Roluos to Kompong Khleang floating village on the Tonle Sap.

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