Photo: Bare bricks at Pre Rup.

Pre Rup

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Rather than letting the heaving sunset crowds get you down, mix your temple touring up a bit and include some of the lesser known and consequently quieter temples on the Angkor circuit, like the delightful and much underrated Pre Rup.

Built in 961 AD as a temple to the Hindu deity Shiva, Pre Rup’s five towers rise over a pyramidal structure representing Shiva’s home, the sacred Mount Meru. The name, meaning “turning the body”—part of an ancient funeral ritual—was only applied relatively recently due to the unproven belief that Pre Rup was originally a burial site. With its ancient plasterwork now eroded away to reveal the bare brick of the towers, they bear more than passing resemblance to giant brick kilns and the overall impression is ironically—given its name—of an elaborate Angkorian crematorium.

Stripped brick is impressive in its own way. Photo taken in or around Pre Rup, Angkor, Cambodia by Mark Ord.

Stripped brick is impressive in its own way. Photo: Mark Ord

At 12 metres in height the upper platform of the temple affords a 360 degree panorama of the forested countryside surrounding the site. As well as great views, a small Buddhist shrine sits at the summit which is a handy place to say a few prayers and make an offering before you start your descent. While the upper platform is mostly level, the steps leading up to it are very steep, making climbing up a feat of fitness and descending a combination of both patience and bravery. It is certainly not recommended for vertigo sufferers.

Early morning or late afternoon light is best for admiring the view and temperatures are better suited to the climb, but do bear in mind that from May to November there is a much higher risk of cloud and rain in the afternoon which can spoil the view and render the laterite steps treacherous. The upper platform is a popular place to watch sunset and it can get rather crowded, although a photographer friend assures me that you get much better shots of the temple with a warm sunset glow from ground level, as all you can see from the summit are shadowy trees and sky.

Wihtout the stucco it almost seems nude. Photo taken in or around Pre Rup, Angkor, Cambodia by Mark Ord.

Wihtout the stucco it almost seems nude. Photo: Mark Ord

Located less than half an hour by tuk tuk from central Siem Reap, Pre Rup is an easy add-on to a visit to Ta Prohm, or Banteay Kdei, as well as being particularly photogenic when viewed at sunrise across the royal bathing pool of Srah Srang. It’s also a good stopping point on the way to or from the pretty temple of Banteay Srei or the Landmine Museum.

If you do decide to visit any of the smaller temples without going to “the big ones” and you don’t have a multi-day pass, you will need to visit the Apsara Authority ticket booths on the main Angkor Wat Road first as tickets cannot be purchased at the smaller temples. And if the appeal of visiting a temple simply because it is not overrun by tour groups is not enough, you would also be doing your bit to preserve the more famous sites by reducing the pairs of feet tramping all over them by one.

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Location map for Pre Rup

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