Preah Vihear is a province of Cambodia that is considered an ideal destination for travelers dying for getting a real taste of the culturally-rich land of Cambodia. Despite not being a top-visited spot like Phnom Penh or Siem Reap, Preah Vihear is still very appealing as there holds a lot of unique attractions you should not miss for a perfect trip to the North of Cambodia.
Preah Vihear is a province located in Northern Cambodia which shares the border with Laos and Thailand. The name of Preah Vihear is named after the famous temple of Prasat Preah Vihear, a sacred sanctuary in its meaning and also an attractive tourist spot in the region. The province is among the biggest ones in Cambodia offering a vast amount of impressive natural views.
The most stunning sceneries here are the mixture of the exotic lush tropical jungle around Preah Vihear temples and dramatic Dangkrek Mountains rising marvellously that becomes the natural boundary between Cambodia and Thailand. You can take advantage of a suitable weather condition in Preah Vihear to visit throughout the year with warm and humid weather as typical characteristics of the tropical climate.
More significantly, this vast province is home to three of Cambodia’s most sacred legacies from the Angor Empire including the renowned temple of Prasat Preah Vihear, the former capital of Koh Ker, and the spectacular complex of Preah Khan Kampong Svay. For conserving such unique legacies with historical and cultural importance, in 2008, Preah Vihear was officially regarded as the second UNESCO World Heritage of Cambodia.
What to see in Preah Vihear
Temple Preah Vihear
As mentioned above, the first and also foremost destination that should be introduced here is the temple of Preah Vihear. The temple was established during the prosperity of the Khmer Dynasty lasting from the 8th to 14th century. Amazingly, the temple was exquisitely built on top of a cliff called Poy Tadi that is more than 500 meters in the Dangrek Mountains.
Numerous parts of these well-preserved structures were constructed over different periods in Cambodia’s history that reflect distinctive architectural styles and also the custom and culture of the locals hidden on every corner of the temple. Visitors may get dazzled with plentiful works of art around Preah Vihear temple. The most remarkable one should go to the artwork depicting the Churning of the Sea of Milk, which is widely known as a masterpiece from Hindu culture.
The scenery of Preah Vihear temple on a sunny day provides a nice background for photography
The next legendary legacy lying on Preah Vihear province is Koh Ker. Koh Ker is actually a complex of 180 buildings over 81 square kilometres. 30 of them are still accessible and provide a perfect background for visitors to take life-time pictures. Once was the 10th century capital of the Khmer Empire, Koh Ker gains its own popularity by its abundant dramatic ruins of architecture along with an impressive location in a mystical jungle.
There was an estimate of 24,000 artefacts recovered from Koh Ker as a result of an excavation project in 2005. Most of these artefacts belong to a collection of stoneware from Chinese, Thailand, and Vietnam. Another intriguing thing about this former capital is its worldwide fame for art. The art of sculpture in Koh Ker reached its peak under the rule of King Jayavarman IV.
The spectacular appearance of Koh Ker can mesmerize every onlooker!
Preah Khan Kampong Svay
The final relic of the three Angkorian legacies that contributed to the flourishment of art in the Khmer Empire is definitely Preah Khan Kampong Svay. The Cambodians in the past admired this venerated complex so much since it was the residence of Kings including King Suryavarman II and Jayavarman VII. Preah Khan Kampong Svay is also of great importance for art and culture that helps visitors get a deep insight into a historic period of time in Cambodia.
Inside the complex are the remains of a pyramid whose name is Preah Damrei. Two elephant images are placed into its upper corners. There are two more elephants with the same design on display in the National Museum of Phnom Penh and Guimet Museum in Paris. If you take a further step to the interior of the complex, you may get a great chance to observe a large amount of exquisitely crafted Khmer sculptures that are all believed to have their origin from Preah Vihear province.
How to get there
Buses or Vans
The first option you may consider getting to Preah Vihear is a bus or a van. This is a very affordable choice that attracts most visitors when their starting point in Siem Reap. If you start your journey in Siem Reap, you can pick any of these buses from various bus companies ranging from Giant Ibis, PSD Xpress, Kampot Express, or Mekong Express.
Most of these bus companies are well-facilitated with modern air-conditional system and serves passengers with professional service on board. Each bus often departs every 15 minutes to one hour from 6:00 AM to 12:00 PM. It is a good idea to book online in advance to avoid facing crowds at the ticket office in the bus station.
Typical stone carvings at Preah Khan Kampong Svay can be seen around the complex
Shared Taxi or Motorbike
To travel to Tbeng Meanchey, the provincial capital of Preah Vihear on a shared taxi or motorbike, you should know there are two possible routes. The first one is packed laterite Major Road from Siem Reap with a distance of over 200 kilometers, while the other easier and faster is from Kampong Thom via NH 64, which is 155 kilometers in the South of Tbeng Meanchey.
You will spend an amount of roughly 5 to 7 USD to hop on a shared taxi to travel to Tbeng Meanchey. For real challengers wanting to create an out-of-this-world travel experience, you are recommended to take a two or three-day motorbike trip from Kompong Thom. However, you need to remember that the road condition is quite bad that most of the traveling time you will encounter to ride on a series of dusty and bumpy roads throughout the green jungle.
There are still countless things Preah Vihear promises to offer you for memorable moments. The beauty of natural settings combined with the diversity of magnificent relics in this wonderland makes sure to give every traveler a true sense of a historical tour in Cambodia. If you get tired of the noise and fast-paced city life, there is nothing better than booking a ticket to off-the-beaten-path Preah Vihear to get away from it all!
Image source: Internet