The big Indochina trip: ancient temples at Sambor Prei Kuk

For some reason, the name Sambor Prei Kuk has stuck in my mind after flipping through the guidebook countless times. When I looked up the details i realized it’s only about 200 kilometers from Phnom Penh which is suitable for an overnight trip. 

We got on the bus in the morning, and sadly the aircon wasn’t quite as good as advertised so it wasn’t a very pleasant ride. A little worse for wear, we arrived in Kampong Thom (the closest city to Sambor Prei Kuk) in the early afternoon. We checked in to a surprisingly nice hotel, rented a  motorbike then set off towards the temples. 

Sambor Prei Kuk is a collection of temple ruins that predate Angkor Way by a few centuries. The temples are spread out in the forest some ten kilometers from the main road north. At first we only saw a few not very impressive ones which felt a bit disappointing after coming all the way here. However, as we kept walking through the forest we saw more and more temples, hidden from view by the foliage. Though there are sandy pathes running between them and signs of modern civilisation here and there, there is a decent Indiana Jones feel about the place. That we were there in late afternoon with the golden light of the low hanging sun filtering through the trees helped to give the place a kind of magical atmosphere. As far as I can figure out there is no other reason to come to Kampong Thom, but Sambor Prei Kuk is definitely worth a visit. We will go back to Phnom Penh, but you could go here as a stopover on the way to Siam Reap.

The first ruin

The sunlight filtering in through the trees with a ruin in the background 

Close up ruin

Temple ruin and the statue inside

Hanging out on a ruin


Ruin with a fountain? outside 

The roof from inside

Walking through the forest 

More ruins and some kind of altar

Sunlight through the trees 

We found a large team on a photo shoot. That kind of destroyed the Indiana Jones feeling.

Decorated walls have cracked and are falling apart 

Temple ruin selfie

This tree is the only thing holding this arch together 

Approaching the most spectacular temple

Stone lions

Sitting on the stairs 


Walking away from the stone lions

Though Kampong Thom is a small city, we found a place with some excellent food for dinner; I can highly recommend Sambor Village Hotel and their Khmer dishes. 

Another sunlight shot to finish the post

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