Photo: The grand approach to Phanom Rung.

Minor Khmer ruins

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Small and obscure Khmer ruins are scattered throughout the lower Isaan region, with several sites accessible from the Nang Rong area. Many of these are little more than a pile of rocks in a remote field or forest. Most travellers are satisfied to see only Phanom Rung and Muang Tam, but history buffs who want to gain a better understanding of the Angkor Empire’s finer points may want to spend a day tracking down the minor ruins.

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The most easily accessible in relation to Phanom Rung is Kuti Reusi Nong Bua Rai, an ancient laterite prang that was probably used as a hermit’s dwelling. Usually occupied by a few grazing cows, it’s situated down a poorly marked side lane on the right just after you come to the bottom of the hill along the road from Phanom Rung to Muang Tam.

Just you, a cow and a prasat at Kuti Reusi Nong Bua Rai.

Just you, a cow and a prasat at Kuti Reusi Nong Bua Rai.

The similar Kuti Reusi Khok Muang is located just south of Muang Tam, while Prasat Khao Praibat is a slightly larger complex shrouded in forest. The latter requires a two-kilometre hike and a local told us that it wasn’t a good idea to leave our motorbike unattended there. Southeast of Muang Tam, you can also visit an ancient kiln site and the rock quarry where much of the stone used on the area’s Khmer structures was mined.

Way down Highway 348 in Pakham district, in the far southwestern corner of Buriram province, Prasat Khok Ngio is a medium-size sandstone and laterite sanctuary built for the practise of Mahayana Buddhism. On the way there, Prasat Nong Hong retains the largest of its three sandstone prangs next to a rice field in Baan Non Din Daeng.

If you’re interested in seeing just one of the more remote sites, Ta Muan in the far southwestern corner of Surin province is perhaps the best choice. It’s actually a trio of ruins situated close together in a forest along the Cambodia border. The largest laterite structure has retained a lintel in reasonably good shape that depicts the Buddha seated above Kala. Ta Muan is around 35 kilometres southeast of Muang Tam.

We’ve only been to a couple of these smaller ruins. Locals told us that some of them are not marked in English and can be difficult to locate on maps, so you’re best off arranging a local driver to spare you a wild goose chase.

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What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Phanom Rung.
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 Read up on where to eat on Phanom Rung.
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