The Hidden Pearls of Northern Cambodia
The Hidden Pearls of
An off-the-beaten-track sanctuary, the Preah Vihear is a historical site of immense importance.
WHY THIS TOUR?
Once an area of conflict and dispute, the opening of the almost precariously perched temple ruins of Preah Vihear is seen as protected grounds with breathtaking scenery to complement. Unpaved roads, rural landscapes, and the feeling of heading on an Indiana Jones-style adventure, nothing short of pure amazement awaits.
The province has an abundance of cultural heritage including impressive legacies from the Angkorian era in the form of the mountain temple of Preah Vihear and the 10th-century capital of Koh Ker. Within easy reach of Siem Reap, the creation of a 2-day exploration of this region, with the imminent opening of this impressive temple complex on the Cambodian – Thai border was almost a given. A must-try for those searching for history and getting up and close with the rural part of Cambodia.
Siem Reap – Preah Vihear [L, D]
In the early morning, we leave from Siem Reap and head north to Beng Mealea and Koh Ker, a scenic 3-hour journey through lesser-developed parts of Cambodia. On the way, a stop at the Beng Mealea Temple will be made. Vegetation largely overruns this sprawling jungle temple giving it an air of mystery and an Indiana Jones feel. This Hindu temple is constructed in a distinctly Angkor Wat style and may have served as its prototype since it preceded it. Beng Mealea is situated near Phnom Kulen National Park and exploration amongst its strangling roots and between its inner sanctuary and the centre of the temple, reveals the Hindu and Buddhist carvings on its large sandstone blocks.
Following our short exploration of this temple, Koh Ker awaits us already as we drive along the Kulen National Park. Despite its rural locality today, Koh Ker was once a thriving former capital of the Khmer Empire home to over 10,000 people. The most significant site is Prasat Thom also known as Prang, a seven-tiered pyramid state temple surrounded by jungle and climbing the stairs to reach its peak 36 metres into the sky offers forest views into the distance. Other ruins include a prayer palace for nobility. En route, we pass through some remote villages and a beautiful forest populated by deer.
A picnic lunch is included on this day
After a picnic lunch in the shade, we drive for another 70 kilometres (paved and soil road) to our goal for the day – Preah Vihear. The temple of Preah Vihear is situated on the edge of a plateau that dominates a vast plain. The Khmer ancient temple of Preah Vihear extends for over 700 metres on top of the sacred Dangrek Mountains and offers stunning views over Cambodia’s plains below. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Preah Vihear was designed to represent Hindu mythology’s sacred mountain of Mount Meru. Preah Vihear has a stairway leading to Thailand since it sits on the border that has cause ownership tensions over the years, but visitors to this sprawling site can soak up its intricate carvings and enjoy an exploration well off the beaten track. Ample time is spent here to learn about its history and admire the panoramic views over northern Cambodia. Dinner is included at your booked hotel.
Overnight at a hotel near the Preah Vihear
Preah Vihear – Siem Reap [B]
After breakfast in the hotel, we drive by 4WD car up the hill to bear witness of the beauty of the temple of Preah Vihear, located on the sacred mountain top of the Dong Rek Mountain ranges, extending for over 700 meters on the top of the Dangrek Mountains. The Dangrek Mountains creates a natural border between northern Cambodia and the Korat Plateau in the northeast corner of Thailand. Its vast size and easy access to Thailand meant that this is where Pol Pot hid in his later years taking advantage of an easy route to flee from.
The Thailand border is a mere stone’s throw away. Lunch is not included on this day. After this visit, which one will not regret, we drive back to Siem Reap and either transfer to your booked hotel in Siem Reap or airport for the evening departure flight to your next destination.
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