Preah Vihear Travel Tip :: Sightseeing

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The Thai and Cambodian paths join together at the bottom of the slope (lower end of the adjacent map), and from here the only way is up.

The fun starts with 162 stone steps (#1), a fairly steep climb that will get you warmed up nicely. Your reward is a short set of stairs decorated with nagas and Gopura I (#3), a solitary pavilion with a fluttering Cambodian flag.
A 500-meter gently climbing avenue leads up to Gopura II (#6), another smallish pavilion, and a large boray (water cistern, #4) to the left.

Yet another avenue (somewhat shorter this time) leads to, yes, Gopura III (#9), but also the first courtyard of the temple and the first point where visitors to Angkor Wat will start feeling a sense of deja vu. Make a detour to the left side of the gopura to see relics of a more modern era, in the form of a rusting artillery gun and a few bunkers.

A short causeway decorated with nagas leads to the inevitable Gopura IV (#14) and behind it the second courtyard. On the other side of the courtyard is Gopura V aka the Galleries (#17), and beyond it the Main Sanctuary (#18), the centerpiece of the site which now houses a miniature Buddhist temple.

But what makes the effort worthwhile lies just outside, so sneak out the left side to find yourself at Pei Ta Da Cliff, with a sheer 500 meter drop and a jaw-dropping vista of the Cambodian jungles below. To contemplate the view without getting sunstroke, locate the crevice that leads into a little cavern of sorts, with shade provided by the tip of the cliff overhead and, unfortunately, some barbed wire to spoil your pictures (and stop you from falling off).

There are several other minor sights in the area, accessible only from the Thai side:

Pha Moh I-Daeng, clearly signposted from the parking lot and only a few hundred meters up the hill, is the present Thai border and the new home of the flagpole that previously fluttered on Pei Ta Da. There are more stunning views of Cambodian jungle here, including a side view of Preah Vihear – although seen from afar the buildings blend surprisingly well into the hillside. The cliff has an interesting bas-relief of three figures whose identities are still unknown. The carving is the oldest of Thailand. It seems to date from the 10th century when Koh Ker was the capital of the Khmer empire, and Khmer craftsmen probably practiced here first before the real carving at Preah Vihear Sanctuary. A walkway gives easy access to the bas-relief which is on an overhanging part of the cliff. On the Thai side there is also a visitor centre with models and pictures of the temple complex.

Double Stupas. Two sandstone stupas, or ‘chedi’ for local people, in cube shape and round top are situated west or Mor E-Dang Cliff. The stupas houses things that mirror prosperity of such period.

Don Tuan Khmer Ruins. Built during the 10th-11th Century, the Khmer Ruins in Ban Phume Sarol is located 300 metres from Thailand-Cambodia border. A legend says a lady, Nang Nom Yai, had stayed here on her way to visit a King. How to get there: Use highway 2243, and get in to small road at km. 91 and continue for 4 km.

Sra Trao or Huay Trao. The stream runs through rock plain foot of Preah Vihear Mount, before running through subterranean tunnel strengthened by rock walls. It is assumed that such low land is Barai or Khmer’s reservoir. The stream and around is now well cleaned and filled up with water.

Namtok and Tham Khun Sri. The three-tier waterfall, above the cave, is situated west of Sra trao close to trail to Phreah Vihear. And Khun Sri Cave in gigantic size was believed once was accommodation of Khun Sri, noble man who controlled rock cutting at Sra Trao for constructing Preah Vihear Sanctuary.

Huay Kanoon Dam. Situated 25 km from the park’s headquarters, the dam and its reservoir offers nice scenery for picnic, relax or camping. The park’s unit is located nearby.

In Preah vihear Province on the Cambodia side of the border, the Temple of a Million Bottles (Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew – more commonly known as Wat Lan Khuad) near Khun Han is a worthwhile detour.