The Temple of Preah Vihear

Written by iHeartKhmer, April 21, 2019

The temple of Preah Vihear is located in a very controversial spot for two reasons.  One: It is on the border of Cambodia and Thailand, so it is controversial over who owns it.  Two: It is located on top of a 625 meter mountain, so it is very difficult to get to for the ordinary tourist.From the Cambodian side it was nearly impossible to reach because the mountain was so incredibly steep, but in 2003 Cambodia made it more accessible for tourists by adding a road.  While it may be hard to get to, it is worth the bumpy ride. The Preah Vihear temple is absolutely breathtaking, as it holds so much history for the Khmer culture.

Preah Vihear

In 2008 the temple of Preah Vihear was added to the World Heritage List because of its significant history for Cambodia and its culture.  It was disputed by Thailand, and still consistently is, but nevertheless it is an important part of history.The temple is 800 meters in length and 400 meters wide.  The construction of the temple started in the late 9th century, being used a place to worship Shiva Brahmanism.  It provided the Khmer a place of worship for over three hundred years.  Its original name was Sreysikharesvara, which means “the power of the mountain.”

The temple itself is a series of sanctuaries which are linked by staircases or pavement.  It is a true masterpiece because of the precise, detailed decorations and the history that it tells and withholds.  The detailed decorations tells story of the history of the Khmer culture and explains their beliefs and daily life. It is truly amazing to see such an old, significant piece of architecture.

While the temple is not yet entirely restored, it still is an amazing piece of architecture to look at, and it allows a great view below of the Cambodian jungle.  Also, if you decide to take a tour of the temple from the Cambodian side, there are no restrictions. You can take many pictures, and you can even spend the night up there if you wish!  Many people enjoy this luxury because they can then see the sunrise and sunset, which are magnificently beautiful.

Once you are on top of the mountain and exploring the Preah Vihear, you must travel by foot.  The journey starts with 162 stone steps, to get you warmed up. At this point you will see Gopura 1, then you continue walking up an slanted avenue where you will reach Gopura 2 and 3 and the first courtyard.  Continuing on you will see Gopura 4 and 5 and more courtyards, with eventually reaching the Galleries and Main Sanctuary.

Each of the five Gopura displays significant detailed art and history, while the scenes get more and more fascinating as you see them.  Upon reaching the Main Sanctuary you are about to see the one sight that makes the entire trip. The view from Pai Ta Da Cliff is significantly beautiful, as talked about previously.  It will literally make your jaw drop. Along the way and more in depth into the temple there are more great historical sights. The trip is truly worthwhile.

The down side about touring the temple of Preah Vihear, is that it is not yet an established tourism area.  There are no hotels in the surrounding communities. Due to the increase of tourism though, the cities are expecting to have hotels in a few years.

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