Photo: These snacks go great with an iced beer.

Prasat Sa Kamphaeng Yai

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The Sa Kamphaeng Yai Khmer sanctuary was built around the 11th century to honour the Hindu god Shiva. Today the out-of-the-way site blends with a modern Buddhist temple established by the late Luang Phor Krueng, who found the ancient ruins to be a perfect place for meditation.

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The central prangs.

The central prangs.

Built mostly of sandstone on a laterite base, the sanctuary sits somewhat neglected in a corner of the larger grounds of Wat Sa Kamphaeng Yai. It’s generally only visited by serious history buffs and lacks the tourist buses found in larger Khmer sites like Phimai and Phanom Rung. Wandering around the outer cloisters and into what’s left of the three prangs can be evocative, if not quite awe-inspiring.

While most of the lintels are in bad shape, with heavily worn details and heads missing on some figures, you can still get a feel for the beauty achieved by the anonymous Khmer artists over a thousand years ago. Displayed behind glass near the entrance, an ancient Khmer inscription details the early history of the complex, which was transformed into a Mahayana Buddhist monument around the 13th century.

Some of the finer detail.

Some of the finer detail.

Part of what makes this site interesting is how it was incorporated into a much newer Theravada Buddhist temple of the same name. After exploring the ruins, check out the huge gong next to an even bigger sculpture of Luang Phor Krueng, and then wander around the ornate wihaan to check out depictions of unfortunate folks reborn in the Buddhist hell realm. One of them sports freakishly large hands while another stands vomiting up what looks like a mix of hair and blood.

There's also this hungry chap.

There’s also this hungry chap.

After Sa Kamphaeng Yai, you could continue 13 kilometres further west to the smaller ruins at Prasat Ban Prasat and/or hit the tiny Prasat Sa Kamphaeng Noi on the way back to Sisaket. The latter features a central shrine room with an interesting cross-eyed depiction of a meditating hermit. You could also follow the train tracks a couple of km east to browse gorgeous handmade silk in Uthumphon Phisai’s street market.


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How to get there
Prasat Sa Kamphaeng Yai is located just southwest of the town of Uthumphon Phisai, around 25 kilometres west of Si Saket town. The temple is only around 200 metres off Route 2083 and is marked by English signs. Buses and minibuses to/from Surin pass by hourly until at least 17:00 and can drop off or pick up travellers along the highway. Alternately, one of the few daily local trains (express and rapid trains don’t stop here) can get you to Uthumphon Pisai, from where you can walk the two or three kilometres straight southwest to the temple along the road running just north of the tracks. We opted to pay a motorbike taxi in Si Saket town to take us here, Kamphaeng Noi and Phra That Ruang Rong for 400 baht all up, which took around three hours.

If coming on your own steam, head west out of Si Saket on Route 226 and hang a left (south) on 2083, then look for signs after around 10 kilometres. Prasat Kamphaeng Noi is closer to Si Saket town on 226; there's no English sign but you'll know it by the unusual Indian-looking guardian statues (one is painted ocean-green) at the gate of Wat Sa Kamphaeng Noi, a small temple that shares space with the ruins.

Location map for Prasat Sa Kamphaeng Yai

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