pyramid of Prasat Thom in 2005 before clearance of vegetation
Founded by Jayavaraman IV , Koh Ker was the Capital of the Khmer Empire for a very brief period from the year 928 to 944 AD. In this short time; some very spectacular buildings and immense sculptures were constructed. Left to the the jungle for nearly a millennium and mostly un-restored; this great archaeological site has been rarely visited until very recently. The ancient Khmer city is in a distant jungle location with up to a hundred ruined temples including a huge stepped pyramid; the largest in the region. More ancient temples are being found in the jungle; so there is a true sense of discovery here. Note: an updated and revised page with more images will be added soon; the page on the old site is still here - Koh Ker
Koh Ker is entered from the south with the temple group Prasat Pram (five towers) being the first we usually visit on our day tours. Of the five towers, three are made of brick and two of those are spectacularly clothed in tree roots of the strangler fig. This parasitic tree usually feeds of the tree and eventually kills its host. On this occasion the roots of the fig are both destroyer and scaffolding giving support to the loosened brickwork of the left hand tower. Heading north the single tower of Prasat Neang Khmau "Black Lady Temple" is to be sen on the right. Although it has the appearance of being burned, the laterite stone is high in iron, so has become black due to oxidization. You will see a lot of ruined towers blackened inside in this area. This is probably caused by the action of the damp humid air which is drawn in through the doorway and funnels up to the opening in the roof. A kilometre north lies the triple towers of Prasat Chin "Chinese temple" For those who have visited the National Museum In Phnom Penh you will see the Fighting apes statue which was removed from this site to the safety of Phnom Penh. You can see here why this was so important. The damage caused by looting os worst here than any of the other sites . Three bomb shattered towers and piles of brick rubble with splintered parts of door frames and lie around. The broken torso of a human figure lies ignominiously near the main tower. Andong Preng "sacred well of oil" is a small reservoir wigh untill recently was used for the water supply for the de-mining camp which was here for several years up to 2009. You can see the stone terraces of the reservoir to gain easy access when the water levels drop. Teo the right of the road you can see the large Rahal Reservior (1200x550metres) this was the main water supply to the city which has now dried up.
Prasat Thom and the sanctuaries
The most important area of Koh Ker is an area to the north centered on the Pyramid of Prasat Thom. Unusually the moat does not surround the main temple pyramid but encloses the central sanctuary to the east . The main temple buddings are of brick construction with the stone entrance gopura. The red brick tower of Prasat Krahom is in remarkable condition after 1000 years and an explosion by looters which totally destroyed the sculpture inside. The bricks were held together by a mortar made from vegetable glue and or tree sap . The broken remains of a sacred ox is visible in the first enclosure gopura. The sculpture was in good condition untill the 1970s whn rampant looting caused the destruction and removal of most of the large statues here. The doorways are the largest in sny of the Angkor Temples. \
This seven stepped pyramid of Prasat Thom is the largest that the Khmer ever constructed Standing 37meteres high it is an impressive structure. It would have had a tall stupa or tower on the top. There is no evidence of it, other than the pedestal with Garuda figures which surround a deep hole which extends down to its foundations. There is one entrance stairway to the east which has partially collapsed. It is no longer possible to climb to the top due to safety issues. Nearby is a smaller tree covered mound Phnom Damrei or elephant hill. This is almost certainly the remains of an unfinished pyramid in alignment with the main Prasat Thom. here is a small elephant shrine at the base and a steep, rough path leading to the top shrine. In August 2011 the path up Phnom Damrei has been closed for safety reasons.
Map showing Prasat Thom
The Linga at Prasat Balang
Koh Ker has some of the most impressive and largest lingas in the region. The phallic symbols were an important part of Hindu Religion; they are always placed on the top of a Yoni pedestal. This is a representation of the female womb and has a drainage channel to divert the holy water poured over the linga to vessels placed outside the walls. The one shown here,Prasat Balang, is the most complete in a set of Linga shrines to the east of the Prasat Thom group. The Buddhists did not accept the practice of worshiping the linga, so after conversion most of the Hindu Lingas were removed. As Koh Ker was abandoned a long time before this, nearly all the lingas remained in place.
Other temples round the Rahal Reservoir
The ancient City of Koh Ker "Chok Gargyar" surrounds the Rahal Reservior. It was originally over 1200m long x 550m wide, however it has mostly dried up. traveling east from Prasat Thom, a circuit road passes the Linga temples and Prasat Andong Kuk (Temple of Prison Well ) to a couple of stone and laterite temples in the style of Banteay Srey. Prasat Krachap and Banteay Pitchean are dedicated to Brahma and Vishnu. Prasat Kratchap has notable stone pillars with clear Sanskrit writings and reliefs of Vishnu riding the sacred bull on the gables to the south side. Banteay Pitcheanis a large and atmospheric ruin with double walls with three ruined towers. A red brick tower of Prasat Chamres can be seen in the distance before Prasat Chhrap which has three blackened laterite towers. At the south of the grump lie Prasat Damrei the elephant temple which is under restoration and some recent;y uncovered carvings at Ang Khna. These carvings mostly Buddha and animal figures surround another small reservior Trapeang Khna. .
Getting to and around Koh Ker
Map of Koh Ker City
Koh Ker is a very important Khmer archaeological site which is undergoing development for tourism. Up till late 2004 the roads were extremely difficult and only a very few determined people had ever been there. up to tat time . In 2004/05 a new road linking Beng Mealea was cut through the forest. This new road is mostly tarmacked and goes to the Thai Border at O’Samach. This road now makes Koh Ker accessible as a long day trip.which we can combine with Beng Melaea. As at August 2010, the site of Koh Ker is still off the main tourist trail. There are no buses or public transport so car, van or motor bike or pickup trucks are the only ways to get here. By car or 4Wd, Koh Ker takes 2 hours from Siem Reap. There are few tourist facilities as present; just some open air food stalls and a new WC block which opened in January 2007. This remote area has no major towns and only a small village in cleared forest nearby. Accommodation is in a few basic lodgings in Sray Yong 10kms to the south. The map shows the main temple sites. If you want a more details map Please contact us and we can send at a higher resolution
Peace of Angkor Remote Cambodia Tours Peace Of Angkor Have been at the cutting edge of remote tourism since 2004 when we ran our first tours to Beng Mealea, villages on the Tonle Sap lake and Preah Vihear. We have continually pushed the boundaries of what is possible; way beyond most tour companies. Our unrivaled Remote and photographic experience means; anyone who has any interest in photographing remote Cambodia will have an incredible experience that no other tour company can match!
For More information on multi day and customised itineraries to Koh Ker, Preah Vihear, Sambor Pre Kuk and Preah Khan Kompong Svay see our www.peaceofangkor.com website or follow this link
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