Whilst most other tourists focus on the temples of Angkor Wat, I decided to make the effort to get off the regular temple routes and head North to the Thai border for something similar but different! Preah Vhear temple dates back to the Koh Ker Period (10th Century) and is still intact enough to explore with some carvings well preserved. This week I took a Preah Vihear tour from Be Happy Guest House in Siem Reap and I’m here to give you the lowdown.
Introduction to Preah Vihear
The Northern located Angkorian temple of Prasat Preah Vihear stretches along a clifftop near the Thai border, with insane views of lowland Cambodia 550m below. A significant place of pilgrimage for hundreds of years, the temple was made by a succession of 7 Khmer monarchs, ending with Suryavarman II and beginning with Yasovarman. Like many other temple-mountains from this period, it was devised to represent Mt Meru and devoted to the Hindu deity Shiva.
History of Preah Vihear
For many generations, Prasat Preah Vihear has been a source of tension between Thailand and Cambodia. This area was once ruled by Thailand for many centuries, but during the French protectorate it was returned to Cambodia, under the treaty of 1907. But sovereignty over the temple has continued to be an issue since, with tensions between Thailand and Cambodia flaring up from time to time, recently in 2008, when around the temple, armed confrontations claimed the lives of many dozen soldiers and some civilians on each side. The tension was finally settled shortly after when Preah Vihear was declared as Cambodian by UNESCO world heritage.
How to get to Preah Vihear from Siem Reap
Taxi or Private Car with Driver
You should probably take a nice taxi from Siem Reap, which should cost around $100 return if you go and come back in one day, and a similar price for a one-way trip. You could negotiate with your driver if you’d like him to bring you back if you’re returning the next day.
Buses from Siem Reap
Neak Krorhorm Express has a minivan service which departs at 7am daily, and costs $10. However, there have been negative reports on them – many tourists paid for a VIP mini van and reported a generic crappy bus that breaks down and doesn’t have air con! If you take a bus you will likely need to stay overnight in Preah Vihear and do the mountain temple the next morning.
Transport up the Mountain – Car or Moto
Once you get to Preah Vihear, you will need to get a ticket from the official ticket office at the foot of the mountain. The cost is $10. You will also need to get a transport ticket for transportation up the mountain. Normal cars and taxis are NOT allowed and so the driver that brought you from Siem Reap will not be able to drive you all the way up. This is apparently for safety because the drivers need experience. However, you are offered two options – $25 car or $5 moto. The motos do not offer helmets and it’s quite a hair raising ride! I only did it because I hadn’t factored in the extra cost – no one told me about this when I booked the tour back in Siem Reap and I didn’t have the spare cash on me!
The Final Climb
There’s no option but to climb the last bit of the mountain to see the pinnacle of the temple and the mountain’s highest point. There are 5 sets of stairs to climb with some uneven ground and so it’s not really suitable for anyone unfit with mobility problems. The final climb is approximately 800 meters and is staged by chapels and gateways joining 5 sets of stairs.
Preah Vihear Temple
Preah Vihear Temple is situated at Preah Vihear Province of Cambodia at the most spectacular location of any Khmer site at the Thailand border. It is about 100 km northeast of Siem Reap.
It’s a large temple that sits on the top of Chuor Phnom Dangrek which is used to divide the Khorat Plateau from the lowland Cambodian plain. It is around 550 meters from the ground level of Cambodia side and makes a more secluded Angkor Wat alternative.
Taking around 300 years to complete the construction by a few famous Khmer king, Preah Vihear temple was built at first from 893 by the king Yasovarman I who ruled the country from 889 to 910.
The vast majority of temple society was established by king Suryavarman and finally the temple was finished during the reign of king Suryavarman II, the famous king who was the founder of amazing temple of Angkor Wat at Siem Reap province. King Suryavarman II, known as a great khmer king conquered the Khorat Plateau, Lopburi and even further north in Thailand. He then protracted the Khmer Empire to the south into the northern part of the Malay Peninsula and the border of Pagan in Myanmar.
Preah Vihear Tours
Shun the trodden track and enjoy lovely scenery and ancient wonders on this door-to-door tour, a route which is not even possible on public transport. Enjoy the sandstone temple of Beng Mealea, gaze at the 7-tiered pyramid of Koh Ker, relish a mixture of Western and Cambodian food, and view the incredible 10th-century UNESCO World Heritage Site of Preah Vihear. Tour also includes lunch but excludes entrance fees.
- See historical wonders: Koh Ker, Beng Mealea and Preah Vihear
- Feast on a lunch of Cambodian and western-inspired cuisine
- Take it nice and easy with door-to-door round-trip transfers
- Explore independently or arrange your own guide on site
Preah Vihear from Siem Reap
The Temple of Preah Vihear is an exclusively architectural complex as well as a terrific masterwork of Khmer architecture, in terms of decoration, plan and relationship to the spectacular landscape. It is definitely worth a visit. This day tour will also take you through history, to touch a part of dark period in Cambodia. After the day of adventure and discovery, you can choose to go back to the city and drop off to your original pick up place. Or you can add an option of witnessing the known Apsara dinner dance show or treat yourself to a relaxing 60 mins body massage to end the day.
- Have a day away from the hustle and bustle of the main city
- All entrance fees included
- Amazing orientation and overview of the city
Koh ker and Preah Vihear Temple Tour
Around 75 miles from Siem Reap, right in the jungle of northern Cambodia, lay the ruins of Koh Ker temple – originally constructed in the 10th-century by Jayavarman IV. High atop 525m Dângrêk Mountain cliff, sits the Preah Vihear Temple – an ancient Hindu construct made during the period of the Khmer Empire. Explore both of them and give something back, on this full-day tour.
- Travel in air-conditioned cars to two of Cambodia’s most intrepid temple ruins
- English-speaking tour guide, fresh drinking water and cold towels provided
- Proceeds from your booking are donated to disadvantaged local communities
- Transfer service between the temple sites and your hotel in Siem Reap included
Preah Vihear Home of God
On this Preah Vihear tour you will be picked up from your hotel in Siem Reap and also stop to visit Koh Ker and Beng Mealea. It’s a long day, but totally worth it!