Koh Ker, Cambodia
An untouched temple complex reveals more wonders of the Angkor empire. Get there before the crowds. By ROBYN ECKHARDT. Photographed by DAVID HAGERMAN
Published on May 10, 2010
Prasat Thom, one of the temples at Koh Ker
When it comes to the magnificent ruins of the Angkor empire, few travelers venture beyond Siem Reap. Minefields and lack of road access have been the main culprits, but those issues are being slowly rectified. Still, many of these sites remain untouched by mass tourism. Take Koh Ker, a mostly unrestored temple complex 120 kilometers north of Angkor Wat that served as the kingdom’s capital from A.D. 928–944. Though a road linking it with Beng Menglea, another temple site 67 kilometers south, was completed several years ago, a visit last year was largely undisturbed by other tourists. (Landmines are still a danger, so take care not to venture off the paths.)
Of the 40 structures spread over 35 square kilometers, the most striking is Prasat Kraham, or the Red Temple, so named for its maroon-hued bricks. Lofty stone archways, galleries and intricate carvings rival any of those found at that other, more famous site. A causeway leads to 35-meter high Prasat Thom, a seven-tiered pyramid that sits in the center of an empty field. Also not to be missed is Prasat Pram, located near the complex’s entrance, made up of five red-brick towers, some of which are photogenically wrapped in webs of thick, gnarled roots—much like Ta Prohm, but without the hordes.
HOW TO GET THERE
Koh Ker is a two-hour ride by car from Siem Reap; expect to pay US$80–US$100 round-trip. Look out for the Community Heritage Patrol — a squad of tan-uniformed young people who assist visitors and help deter looters. They’re part of a sustainable-tourism initiative that includes ox-drawn cart tours. On the way back, stop at Beng Menglea, a beautiful 12th-century temple with atmospheric galleries and a library, as well as a wooden walkway that enables visitors to view the complex from above.