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PREAH VIHEAR PROVINCE

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Preah Vihear is quite a big northern province of Cambodia. Its capital is called Phnom Tbeng Meanchey. The province itself is named after the temple of Prasat Preah Vihear, what is definitely the hotspot of this province. Much of the province is extremely remote and strongly forested. Unfortunately do large logging companies reduce the natural landscape by carving huge tracts of pristine tropical hardwoods out of the locations. It is also one of the least populated provinces in the Kingdom of Cambodia. This tranquil site is popular for the Preah Vihear temple, standing in the vicinity of the borderline between Thailand and Cambodia.
 
The province has one of the worst infrastructures in the country there are even no proper Major Roads in existence. Going around this province is not that easy if you're used to proper roads and usual transportation possibilities, as there are only a few pick-ups or some money-hunting moto drivers to take you where you would like to go.
 
Whatsoever the province has a lot to offer for those, who are interested in ancient temple structures and remote villages without touristy influence. Here in Preah Vihear you may find three of the most impressive legacies from the Angkorian era: the mountain temple of Prasat Preah Vihear, the 10th-century capital of Koh Ker and the mighty Preak Khan.
 
Koh Ker is nowadays easily accessible from Siem Reap via Beng Mealea, but the other two still remain difficult to visit, requiring long and tough overland journeys and a distinct possibility to spend a night in the jungle. During the wet season these places are more or less unreachable. But there are governmental plans to develop the region for a smooth but constant tourism, building roads and improving infrastructure.
 
The provincial capital Tbeng Meanchey is due to the state of the infrastructure and it's geographical location not visited by a lot of foreigners. Most of them don't make it here worrying about the street conditions and the backcountry feeling of no fast supply in need. The city is sprawling and dusty and consists of little more than two small major dirt roads form South to North. There is nothing interesting in town or to do, so it has necessarily become more a stopover on the way to Koh Ker and Preah Khan.
GEOGRAPHY & CLIMATE
Preah Vihear province is 13,788 square kilometres big. It's located in the North of the country and shares its international border to the North with Thailand and Laos, its provincial borders to the East with Stueng Treng, to the West with Oddar Meanchey and Siem Reap and to the South with Kompong Thom. The province is blessed with endless natural treasure. With its acres of dense, hilly forests and scrub green vegetation, Preah Vihear is indeed an ideal getaway destination in the lap of nature. The breathtaking views over the Dangkrek Mountains and lush jungle from Preah Vihear temples are famous.
 
The country has a tropical climate - warm and humid. In the monsoon season, abundant rain allows for the cultivation of a wide variety of crops. This year-round tropical climate makes Cambodia ideal for developing tourism. Travellers need not to fear natural disasters such as erupting volcanoes or earthquakes, and the country is not directly affected by tropical storms.

Climate: Cambodia can be visited throughout the year. However, those plans to travel extensively by road should be avoided the last two months of the rainy season when some countryside roads may be impassable.
 
The average temperature is about 27 degrees Celsius; the minimum temperature is about 16 degrees.
 
December and January are the coolest months, whereas the hottest is April.
 
General information about the provincial climate:
- Cool season: November- March (22-28c)
- Hot season: March- May (27c -35c)
- Rainy season: May - October (24-32c, with humidity up to 90%.)
POPULATION
The current population in this province is about 160,551 people or 1.1% of the country's total population (14,363,519 person in Cambodia, 2007, provincial government data), with 81,318 male and 78,233 female. The population density is therefore 11.64 people per square kilometre.
HOW TO GET THERE ?
General Information (Share taxi/Pick-up/Motorbike):
To get into this remote province you have two possibilities, one is a packed laterite Major Road from Siem Reap via Anlong Veng, with a distance of over 200 km (completed in 2003).
 
The other access to Preah Vihear is from Kampong Thom via NH 64, which is about 155km South of Tbeng Meanchey. The last one is probably the easiest and fastest way to go to Tbeng Meanchey. Pick-ups go almost daily in the morning and noon to the provincial capital of Preah Vihear from Kampong Thom market ($2-4 depending if you're inside or on the back).
 
The comfortable share taxi is the other and faster option for $5-7. The road leading there is in horrendous condition as the logging freeze means no one has done any maintenance for a couple of years. The last 30km to Tbeng Meanchey climb some hills, which may get very nasty during the wet season with small creeks to minor rivers. You can also reach the place on a two to three days motorbike trip from Kompong Thom. Be aware of the road conditions and try to judge your personal experience on dusty, bumpy roads in the jungle.
 
A new other road has been constructed linking Siem Reap to Koh Ker (attraction side). From there, it's an ardous day ride on badly worn out dirt and sand tracks to Preah Vihear (famous temples).
 
Motorbike Info (Khampong Thom Preah Vihear):
Kompong Thom is the starting point for a real adventurous tour to the seldom-visited jungle plains of northern Cambodia. This 2-3 days motorbike ride to Preah Vihear is offered by some of the moto-taxi drivers, who will propose it to you once they spot you getting off the bus ($30-50).

With you sitting on the back of the bike, your driver will take you through peaceful villages and rice paddies, passing by friendly locals, spending a night with a local family and visiting the temples of Preah Khan Kompong Thom and Koh Ker on your way up. A part of the journey leads you along an old Angkorian road and over its ancient bridges. The ride itself is hardship, skidding over sticks and stones, through sand oceans and bamboo forests, sometimes fording small rivers. From Preah Vihear, you will head to Siem Reap via Anlong Veng, the place where Pol Pot is said to have died. It's a worth a ride, but put your motorbike skills on question before you go for it.
 
Note! 
Land mines still remain a real danger in Preah Vihear although the temples itself and the access paths have been painstakingly cleared. Stay on the beaten trek, don't venture into any vegetation that has not been cleared recently, and heed the red warning signs, painted rocks and strings marking the limits of the demined area.
WHAT TO SEE ?
Bakan or Preah Khan Kampong Svay Temple
The Bakan temples are located in Ta Siang village, Ronakse commune, Sangkum Thmei district, about 105 kilometers southwest of the provincial town. on a plain that was a former worship place of the king. The temple is surrounded by two ramparts-inside and outside rampart. Inside each rampart, there are many other temples such as Neang Peou and Dangkao Baodos temples.The temple was likely a royal palace and worship place. According to historians, the site used to be a hiding place of King Jayavarman VII before he ascended to the throne in AD 1181 because the style of some construction is similar to the style of Bayon and Ta Prohm temples.
 
Outside the rampart, there are many other temples such as Preah Damrei, Preah Thkaol, Ta Prohm, Muk Buon and Preah Stung temples.Looking through into the large area beyond the wall of Prasat Bakan (Bakan Temple) in Preah Vihear province, laterite stone refracts the bright sunshine, enveloping the temple in a heavenly light. The towers of the temple have long since collapsed and the hundreds of pieces of stone which once made up Bakan are now a less-than-glorious pile of rubble. Even in this sad state destroyed in part by war, and in part by greed the fallen Bakan can still provide us with evidence of the once important place this temple held in the history of the Angkor period, but looters have other plans. In 2003 after a botched robbery, the central area collapsed and apsara and Buddha statues were stolen.
 
Prasat Bakan is off National Route 6, 75km north of the Kompong Thom town, Stoung. According to the director of the Department of Culture and Fine Arts Ros Samphal, in ancient times, Prasat Bakan, or Preah Khan Kompong Svay temple as it sometimes called, was originally named after a victorious and well-loved general: Jey Srey. This general, was a man renowned for defeating the Cham and forcing them out of the Angkor capital. "Jey Srey is better known as Jayavarman VII," Ros says. "Angkor?s mighty architect and warrior king."He says that while the Angkor capital was occupied by Cham soldiers, one of the then Angkorian king?s sons, Jey Srey, fled the country to live in the Champa Kingdom (now central Vietnam). While living there, he studied this neighboring Kingdom, and in particular Cham military tactics. After 14 years, he returned to his beloved Angkor and created his own army, training them in secrecy in the jungle.
 
"While living in the jungle," Ros says, "he completed Prasat Bakan. He also built an iron foundry where swords, knives, axes and other weapons were made by the thousands.""Each day, more and more soldiers were enlisted for military training." "Once trained," Ros continues, "Jey Srey led his army through Kompong Svay province [now part of Kompong Thom and Preah Vihear provinces] direct to the Angkor capital, where he fought and defeated the Cham soldiers for the liberty of his father's kingdom.""Jey Srey's name held great meaning. Jey means victory and successor;Srey means happiness, harmony and good luck."Deputy director of the Preah Vihear Provincial Tourism Department Kit Chanthy says Prasat Bakan was the second capital of the Angkor kingdom during the reign of King Jayavarman VII. "King Suryavarman I began the construction of the Hindu temple Bakan between 1002 and 1050. The temple was completed by King Jayavarman VII," Kit explains. Prasat Bakan is situated in Ta Seng village, Sangkum Thmey district, Preah Vihear province."
 
Under Secretary of State of the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts H.E. Khim Sarith says since the beginning of 2006 the Ministry has been cooperating with provincial authorities to set up a team to protect the temple. "However what makes this difficult are the current road conditions leading to the temple. During the rainy season we can?t even get into the area," Khim says. The main group of temples were built in the 12th century when Preah Khan was home to both King Suryavarman II and later, the future King Jayavarman VII, before the latter defeated the invading Chams, claimed the throne and moved his capital back to Angkor in 1181. The story of his victories are celebrated in bas-relief carvings on the walls of the Bayon and Banteay Chhmar.

Located 100 kilometres east of Angkor, the site was studied in the 1870s by Louis Delaporte, who shamefully looted and carried off a number of substantial carvings that are now housed in the Guimet Museum in Paris. However, one masterpiece remains in the National Museum in Phnom Penh and that's a finely sculpted head, believed to be of Jayavarman VII. A millennium celebration at Preah Khan attracted hundreds of locals and vegetation was cleared from the site for the occasion, but it remains a complex very much in its natural state, inundated with trees, scrubs and dense foliage throughout. With the re-emergence of Cambodia's remotest areas from years of inaccessibility.
 
Foof of Phnom Tbeng Wat Bak Kam
Wat Bak Kam is located along Tbeng mountain foot in Bak Kam village, Chhien Muk commune, Tbeng Meanchey district, about 17 kilometers west of the provincial town. The pagoda is 1, 000 meters long and 400 meters wide. The site offers nice view, forest and fresh air year round. Local villagers usually visit this site during holidays or national festivals.
 
Beside the pagoda, there is a large rock called Thma Peung Angkam (Thma Peung means overhanging rock and Angkam mean chaff). According to the local people, in the past, because of the failure of war with neighboring country, the Khmer commander and his troops hide under that rock. They cultivated rice in a nearby field to support their living. They husked rice under that rock and left the chaff. Later, local villagers found a lot of chafff under the rock, which is why the place is call Thma Peung Angkam. The rock is alos believed to be an important worship site.
 
Koh Ker Temple 
Koh Ker was once an ancient capital of Cambodia, located in Srayong Cheung village, Srayong commune, Kulen district, about 49 kilometers west of the provincial town. The Koh Ker complex is on the Chhork Koki highland. It was built by King Jayavaraman IV (AD 928-942). Koh Ker temple is 35 meters high, and its design resembles a seven-stepped stupa. The temple faces west toward Angkor city. It was built to worship Treypuvanesvara, the god of happiness.
 
So far, 96 temples have been found in Koh Ker: Dav, Rumlum Bey, Beung Veng, Trapiang Prey, Dey Chhnang, Srok Srolao, Lingam, Kuk Srakum, Trapiang Ta, Sophy, Krahom, Andoung, Ang Khna, Teuk Krahom, Damrei Sar, Krarab, Banteay Pichoan, Kuk, Kmao, Thneung, Thorn Balang, Rohal, Chamneh, Sampich, Trapiang Svay, Neang Kmao, Pram, Bat, Khnar Chen, Klum, Chrab, Dangtung, Prang, Kampiang…. These temples were not constructed near each other. Today, many of them are no longer standing, and some are buried in the ground. The followings are locations and descriptions of some of the Koh Ker temples:
. Neang Khmao Temple
The Koh Ker complex is along a trail that is about 3 kilometers long. The first temple, Neang Khmao sits atop a small hill on the east side of the trail. The temple, which faces west toward Angkor city, is made of sandstone. It is 20 meters high and resembles a stupa. The temple terrace is 2 meters high and divided into three decks. The temple is surrounded by a laterite rampart, 44 meters square and 2 meters high. The rampart has only two openings; one on the east side, and the other on the west. The temple once housed lingam and yoni, but only yoni remains. The lintel sculpture has been damaged, but otherwise, most of the temple is in good condition, while nearly three-quarters of the rampart is good condition.
 
. Pram Temple
About 700 to 800 meters north of Neang Khmao temple is another temple called Pram temple. Constructed of laterite and sandstone, it sits on a small hill surrounded by bushes that block the lingam and the lintel. The main body of the temple is in good condition.
 
. Chen Temple
Farther down the trail is a three-peak temple made of laterite and sandstone. It faces east and is called Chen temple. Inside the temple there is a piece of lingam and remnants of a statue of King Jayavarman IV. A sculpture of garuda's head on the south lintel is missing. The temple is overgrown by forest.
 
. Preng Well
About 800 to 900 meters farther, there is the Preng well, which is similar to a pond. Surrounded by stone, it is 20 meters square. The terrace is about 8 centimeters high. The water in the pond is clear, and a nearby tree provides shade for weary visitors looking for a place to relax.
 
. Rampart of Koh Ker Temple
Another kilometer down the trail is the rampart of Koh Ker temple. 1 kilometer long and 2 kilometers high, it is made of laterite. Koh Ker temple is the middle of a rampart, surrounded by 20 more temples. Some of the temples are:
 
. Kuk Temple or Gopura
Kuk temple or Gopura is made of sandstone and has a sculpture of lotus petals on the temple fronton. Although the door frame is damaged, most of the temple is in good condition. A Shiva lingam that once was housed inside has been looted.
. Prang Temple
Prang temple is constructed of sandstone and bricks. There are five separate parts of this temple. About 70 percent of the temple is still standing.
 
. Krahom Temple
About 10 meters farther is Kramhom temple (The red temple). Constructed of brick and shaped like a seven-level pyramid, the temple is decorated with a 20-meter-tall sculpture of lotus petals. Inside the temple, there is a 3-meter-tall statue of Shiva with eight arms and four heads. The statue is supported by a l-square-meter base. The statue is seriously damaged, only some parts remain.
 
. Khmao Temple
Farther down is Khmao temple. On the wall and door frame of the temple, there is a partially damaged inscription. Near the temple is a rampart gateway to Kampiang temple. The gateway is a 2-meter staircase. Some sculptures of lotus petals, seven-headed nagas and garudas remain.
 
. Koh Ker Temple
About 300 meters farther to the west is Kampiang or Koh Ker temple. From a distance, the temple looks like a small hill, because it is covered by forest. Up close, however, it is actually a 35-meter-high stupa made of sandstone. It has seven levels, each level about 5 meters above the other. Each deck has a 2-meter-wide terrace, and there is a 55- step staircase to the top. At the top of the temple, there are large statues of garudas supporting Shiva lingam Treypuvanesvara. Nearby, there is a 4-meter square well, now completely covered by grass. According to local villagers, if a coconut is dropped into this well, it will appear in the pond near Neang Khmao temple. There is vegetation growing on top of the temple, and from there visitors have an excellent view of the surrounding landscape, in particular, Phnom Dangrek, Phnom Tbeng, and Kulen district.To the north of Koh Ker temple is another temple, Damrei Sar temple, but it is heavily damaged. To the northeast, is Iingam temple. This temple once housed three Shiva lingams, but some are now damaged.
 
Kork Beng Temple 
Kork Beng Temple is located in Wat Prasat Chey Preuk on Kork Beng Village, Kampong Pranak commune, Tbiang Meanchey district. The leterite amd sandstone temple was built between AD 936 and 951 by a commander name Kork on ordered from King Jayavarman IV. There is a hug Beng Tree near the temple. Therefore, the king named the temple Kork Beng. Today only a few stones of the ancient temple remain. The temple, however, was reconstructed with concrete in 1988. The new temple is 8 meters high and 12 meters square. There is a statue of Bodhisattva in temple center, where the worship place is.
 
Krapum Chhouk Temple 
Krapum Chhouk Temple is located in Romdos commune, Rovieng district, about 45 kilometers south of the provincial town. The laterite and sanstone temple was built in the late 10th century to worship Brahmanism.
 
Neak Buos Temple 
Neak Buos Temple is located in Choam Ksan district, about 75 kilometers north of Tbiang Meancheay provincial town. The laterite, sanstone and brick temple is 50 meters square and built on a plain to worship Brahmanism. It is very difficult to reach the temple because of bad road condition.
 
Noreay Temple 
Noreay temple are located in Krala Peal Village, Pring Thom commune, Choam Ksan district, about 32 kilometers northeast of Preah Vihear provincial town. There are 3 temples stand separate from each other about 200 meters. The first site is surrounded by double rampart which is 100 meters long and 50 meters wide made of laterite.
 
It includes five temples made of sandstone, laterite and brick. The second site was completely damaged only temple base remain. The third site house Preah Noreay, but the temple was seriously damaged only Preah Noreay statue remain.According to the study, Noreay temple were built at the same time with Sambo Preykuk temple in 7th century. The temples are recently completely covered by forest.
 
Phnom Pralean Temple 
Phnom Pralean temple is on a 180 meters small hill located in Krang Dong village, Preah Kliang commune, Tbiang Meanchey district, about 25 kilometers from the provincial town. The laterite and sandstone temple, built to worship Brahmanism, is 160 meters long and 60 meters wide. Surrounding the temple is a beautiful nature and abundant fresh airs where a good place to visit is.
 
Preah Vihear Temple 
In the 6th century , king Yasovarmamn I ( 889-900) began work on the original dedicated to Shisa as result of spiritual development, increased political prestige and economic growth was naturally reflected in the Temple undergoing more than 300 years of consultation with deal of remodeling under subsequent King Suryavarman II ( 1113 -1150) this increased prestige naturally changed the original small sanctuary into one of the greatest Khmer temples of all times. This ranking was the result of the finest in situ carving that depicted the highest standards of unique Khmer architecture.
 
Under the Franco-Siamese Treaty of 1904 and 1907, the line of frontier between Cambodia and Thai along the Dongrak Mountains followed justice at the Hague officially found that the Preah Vihear Temple situated inside the Cambodia territory.
 
The World Heritage Committee, meeting for its 32nd session, finished inscribing the Temple of Preah Vihear sites on UNESCO?s World Heritage List on 8 July with the addition of 19 cultural sites and eight natural sites to the List.
 
Preah Vihear Temple is located in a pleasant environment with an attractive countryside slightly east of the mid section of the Dongrek Mountains.It is perched on the edge of a giant cliff, about 625 meters above sea level in Preah Vihear Province, Northern part of Cambodia, 625km from the capital city of Phnom Penh. It is also situated close to the Cambodia-Thai border.The temple has four levels and four courtyards which comprise of five Gopuras ( entrance pavilions some times surmounted by tower )
 
Palace Building or Gopuras on the third level: This group of building was the King's residence when he came to pay homage to the mighty God , and the two wings were the shelters for the pilgrims. The main temple are used for the high-ranking supreme divinities, this mighty group of building is considered as the center of the whole temple complex.
 
The front stone stairway : this main passage is on the North side. The stairway is 8 meters wide and 78 meters long,. The fist flight has 162 steps. At the first landing is a large stone singa statue on stone block. Another 54 flight of steps 4 meters wide and 27 meters long leads up to the second landing also decorated with stone signa statue.
 
The Nagaraj Courtyard : this stone-paved is 7 meters wide by 31.8 meters long. From here the stairway leads up to the first-level Gropura. The Stairheads are in the form of seven-headed snakes called "Ngu Suang " facing North towards the Prasat. The heads and tails of nagas on both sides look like ordinary snakes, characterizing and early example of this type of animal figures. The head portion of the naga on the west side looks very impressive because it is made from a single solid stone.
 
The first level Gopura : this is a pavilion in Greek architecture style with cross plan on an elevated, rebates angle base on each of the roof doorway . Stone lions are placed on each of the roofs dooeway.
 
The temple can be reached by crossing the Cambodia-Thai gateway border from the Ubon Ratchantani Province of Thailand. Currently the visits are from 8.00 till 16.00 hours. For all the grandeur of its site, perched on the edge of a giant cliff and with a commanding view over northern Cambodia, Preah Vihear is difficult to visualize as a whole. The experience is truly a memorable one the series of ascents over the best part of a kilometer, the ornate Gopuras and the wealth of decorative detail truly staggers one's imagination.
 
Wat Peung Preah Kor
Wat Peung Preah Kor is worship place located in Mohapol Village, Chhean Muk commune, Tbeng Meanchey district, next to the foot of Tbeng mountain. The site features beautiful natures and is a good place for local and foreign visitors to relax. Superstitious people believe that the site is very powerful.
WHERE TO EAT ?
General Information:
With exception of the small market and a couple of food stalls on the street, there are only a couple of eateries in town. In front of the taxi station you may find a couple of small restaurants offering noodle and rice dishes and fresh coffee.
 
Dara Reas Restaurant:
This place is located 200m west from the roundabout and 1km south from the market. It is a larger garden restaurant that's popular with well-to-do locals. It offers good grub concerning the so to-say end of the world and some nice pavilion for small groups. Typical Khmer food.
 
Mlop Dong Restaurant:
This restaurant comes with reasonable food, and the range of dishes is also heartening for this part of the world. It is quite a popular place for expats living in town, and after dinner this is about the closest thing to a pub this town boasts.
 

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