Despite the wonders of the Angkor Wat temple complex in Siem Reap, many visitors to Cambodia leave their first temple exploring holiday with a desire to experience some ancient wonders without the crowds of so many other tourists.
Located 100 km from Preah Vineah provincial capital is the 11th-century temple remains of Preah Khan Kompong Svay and any traveller who makes the journey will be perfectly rewarded. The site, until recently only really known to archaeologists, also known as Prasat Bakan, is approximately 5 square kilometres in size and has plenty of sumptuous grounds to explore.
The style of the architecture is from the Angkorian period (the same as Angkor Wat), however, some structures here date back to as early as the 9th century and Preah Khan Kompong Svay was the biggest temple complex built during this period. This in itself is an amazing fact when you consider the competition!
Preah Khan’s history is something of a mystery and for a long time has been an important religious site. Archaeologists now believe that Suryavarman II (who built Angkor Wat), and Jayavarman VII both resided here at different times in their lives, which strongly suggests Preah Khan was probably a second city in the Angkorian empire.
Originally dedicated to Hindu deities, Preah Khan was reconsecrated by Mahayana Buddhist who worshipped there during a monumental reconstruction in the late 12th and early 13th centuries.
Dense in vines and trees, and thanks to its fairly remote location, the site is absolutely astonishing and you’ll very likely be the only visitor. Tickets are free for locals and $5 for foreigners. Watch our video to see more, and see the location here.
Despite its remote location, there is no evidence of landmines in the vicinity of Preah Khan so all of the temples can be explored freely and without the hoards of tourists that flock to Angkor Wat.
Christopher Pym wrote this passage in 1957 when discovering Preah Khan Kompong Svay for the first time:
“Grass was head high. We continued our way southwards along a narrow path, which led to the inner gate of Prah Khan. The central courtyard beyond lay behind a huge heap of fallen masonry tangled with jungle plants. The temple of Prah Khan is still in total ruin, and has not, like Angkor, been restored by the French”
The best way to get to Preah Khan Kompong Svay is to book a bus or tour from Preah Vineah which is located approximately one and a half hours away and can be done comfortably on a full one day tour. Alternatively, full one day tours can also be booked from Siem Reap and Kampong Thom. The temple can only be reached by all-terrain car or helicopter from Cambodia or it can also be accessed from Sisaket province in Thailand.
Preah Vineah has many accommodation and eating options for such a remote town and most tourists will be more than content staying there for several nights. The Sok San Motel is a mid-priced hotel that has beautiful rooms and gardens in addition to being able to book or the temple tours from there at competitive prices.
So what are you waiting for? If you are looking for a real-life Indiana Jones holiday get yourself to Cambodia and start exploring now before everyone else finds out about this unknown gem!