Travel information for Prasat Preah Vihear 10th December 2012
– I had heard about Prasat Preah Vihear through the work of one of my favourite authors and historians Graham Hancock. His website shares alot of information about the imporantance of the global position of the temple in relation to the Pyramids at Geeza and the Nazca lines in peru. There is a lot of reoccurring mathematic / geographical symmetry involving these places and they are all exactly ‘pi’ away from each other along an important lay / energy line of the earth.
For those of you who don’t know. Prasat Preah Vihear is a temple complex on top of a mountain situated on the border between Thailand and Cambodia.
When I realised that Preah Vihear was closed at the Thai border (due to mass military unrest and a heated standoff a couple of years back) It was clear that this might be my only chance to see the temple complex before it became more damaged by the fighting or further restricted by the government.
I asked around Siem Reap and was quoted from between $80 dollars to $140 to get a private taxi there. After doing a bit of research online I decided I was going to bite the bullet an make my own way there from Siem Reap.
This involved getting up early and leaving at 8am and getting a $3 tuk tuk to the bus station next to the old market. This is literally just a couple of buildings on the side of the road and is in quite a run down part of Siem reap and about 8 minutes away from Pub Street.
After getting there I asked around for a shared taxi – which I found very soon and was quoted 8 dollars to Sra Em which is the small village and nearest outpost to the temple.
After getting into the car, 6 people then proceeded to get into the back and 4 in the front! It was very uncomfortable and nobody spoke English – but we smiled and communicated best we could. It was a good four hours to Sra Em and we stopped quite a few times to pick up supplies and switch passengers etc.
About half way into the journey we stopped in a real back water town where there were no tourists or non-Cambodians anywhere. I got out of the car to let the guy next to me out in the car and just stood out side. Lots of Cambodians then approached me and one said “Hello Sir, Hello Sir”. My driver took one look at me and clicked and beaconed me to get back into the car.
I did this straight away as I started feeling a little unsafe. The nice Cambodian girl who was in the front with me leaned over and locked the door on my side and the tough-guy Cambodian then preceeded to open the drivers door and try to get at me from the drivers side. The girl motioned at him to stop and blocked his approaches at me. I was very grateful for this as I believe he wanted my money and everything I had. We quickly left and I immediately felt a lot safer.
When we arrived Sra Em, the driver dropped me right on the corner where all the taxi guys were and I had to pay again (racket) to get a motocycle taxi to the foot of the mountain which cost $20 dollars.
I then took the bike taxi which was about 20km from the foot of the mountain. The sun was really strong at this point and the place was eerily silent as we entered the militarized zone. There were very few buildings along this stretch of road and this place was very quiet.
We travelled into the middle of nowhere and it was really liberating with the breeze on my face. Most of the journey was on a flat plain and once we approached the mountains the one with Prasat Preah Vihear stood out on its own like a beacon in the sun.
The driver pointed this out to me and I took a photo and marvelled at the perfectly formed side of the mountain, which in all honesty – looked like the side of the recently discovered Bosnian Pyramids.
We rode past an army checkpoint with a proud Khmer goose-stepping with his cold war-era AK47 and then proceeded to pull into the national park check point. Here I had to choose if I wanted to pay $25 dollars for a truck or $5 dollars for another motorbike.
I opted for the motorbike and they sympathetically tried to explain to me that they need to use these motorcycles as they have a bigger axle and bigger wheels for getting up the hill. I was so excited by this point – I did not care.
(Notice in this photo how the light traverses the angles of the building perfectly. I noticed this all over the complex and it is definitely intelligently incorporated into the design.)
There is a clean toilet at the national park entrance, which you can use for a small donation and they have a pump well which I saw locals getting water from.
From the national park check point the bike goes about 100 metres up the road and takes a sharp turn toward the mountain. Just before the road starts to climb there is a second check point at which you have to show your ticket.
The road is wide (Probably for military trucks to get up) and has recently been paved along with the side of the mountain. The road is paved for about 3/4 of the journey and nearer the top you will see lots of soldiers and small family shacks along the sides of the road. Some of the gradients are extremly steep and I found myself leaning to help the weight ratio on a lot of them.
Also the crazy motodup would take the corners at speed and lean into them even over loose dust and sand so if you are at all anxious putting your trust in others then take the truck instead and / or go with a group.
When you reach the top its all a big cambodian army area and everyone seems nice and friendly. The bike driver said he would wait for 2.5 hours which was just perfect for myself as I am quite a fast walker. To-be-honest, you could spend all day exploring the place and they say its best to time it with the sunset – but I did not want to get stuck in Sra Em on my own with no ride back so left as sunset drew in.
My driver pointed me into the direction of the temple and after waling for a short distance you approach it from the side of the first part of the temple. The sheer size of the place is breathtaking and you cannot literally see all five temple complexes from one place as they are obscured from view by the rise of the mountain and the shrubbery.
I wanted to get a real feel for the temple – so I started at the beginning which involved me walking down the 400 or so stone steps and starting at the proper entrance (which I believe has been closed due to its extreme proximity to the Thai border and the safety risk that this presents.
The stone staircase is grand and begins with two Angkor style lions at the start of the way. You walk up on huge megolithic stones and get to the first level and where the first temple should be. This first temple is the most damaged of all of them and I am unsure if this has fallen from the mini war with the Thais or just from earth shift and thousands of years of existance.
On this first area a friendly Cambodian police / peace keeper guy spoke to me and showed me his binoculars which I looked through and he pointed out the Thai border and the Thai army stronghold which was just on the opposite hill.
After the first temple you walk out onto the straight stone line which the whole temple is themed around. The whole complex is set out in a biped / crucifix fashion with everything parallel to a central meridian that runs down the body of the complex like a Chakra line.
After a while you realise that the whole place lines up with huge accuracy and every central door which flows down the horizontal theme of the Temple is perfectly dead centre and you can see throw door after door after door perfectly centred on some of the levels of the temple.
When you reach the next temple it is a larger cross version of the first but still intact. It was here that I first felt the huge energy of the place and the wierd eery feeling I felt in my stomach from being in such and important yet quiet place.
There was an eco-programme going on and the people in the temple were all Cambodians who were conserving it and cutting back the grass and leaves which I believe had been let grow long in a time of neglect with the stand off with the Thai neighbours.
As you pass through each temples the height of the temple increases and you go up more and more stairs. between each temple is the gigantic stone walk way which becomes more and more grand the higher you go.
The third temple is like the heart / arms of the body and this one reaches out to the sides of the mountain and has alot more walk ways and passages to explore. It really was an amazing feeling to be in a stone temple with gras on your feet and perfect silence filling the place.
After this temple there is a shrine for the recently passed away King of Cambodia – Norodom Sihanouk who recently passed away. The rise to the next temple is again steep and here you can see more trees which are growing out of the sides of the temple and stone stairs.
In the last area is a courtyard and there are roman style pillars which I presume once held a roof of some soft. In the final temple is a very holy shrine and I did not venture in here as it was small and there were some monks praying.
The end of the temple is a little broken and you cannot get out onto the final courtyard through the main temple but you can go through the side door. At the top were a lot of Cambodian garden workers just bumming around and chilling out.
I stepped up out onto the edge which is a kind of platform which has been carved / shaped out of the rock. The feeling you get here is utterly astonishing and you can se out onto the plain for miles in all directions.
It is almost nauseating and gives you waves of vertigo but its a brilliant feeling. Here also is a burial chamber but this looks like it is later than the temple itself as it doesnt really fit with the master design of the area.
This final area is clearly the entrance to the heavens / stars / space / universe and the whole place has the feeling of being a launch pad / launch area for a space ship from pre-antiquity.
While I was there I only saw 4 other tourists in the whole place. This temple goes undisturbed by thousands of tourists who flock to the Angkor Wat complex and I can honestly say that this place has more charm and mystique about it than Angkor Wat or Angkor Prom.
When you are in some of the rooms you get a weird energetic feeling of peace. I am not sure if it is the sheer size of the place overwhelming the mind and sensory but it really does feel like a special place which has been created for a reason.
I will update this when I think of things I have missed but all i can say is go and see this place. Its possible more breathtaking than the Pyramids and It needs to be on your life bucket list.
But here is how the day ended:
After arriving back down the mountain the first motorcycle dude was still waiting and when we went to leave his carb blocked and his bike broke down. One of the rangers gave us a lift in the back of his truck and we stuck the bike in the back and off we went.
We got back to Sra Em and I was greeted by the mob of taxi guys who quickly encircled me and when I queried about a taxi I was told I would have to get a private one which would cost $50 dollars. I haggled with them for a while and got the price down to $40. I was very tired and it was getting dark at this point so I just wanted to get back to Siem Reap.
I paid it and he drove very fast on the way back so I got back to Siem Reap in much better time. Although i gave him $40 he was not willing to take me to my hostel so I had to take a motor cycle taxi which was another $3 dollars.
In total I spent $75 dollars and the cheapest I was quoted for a private taxi was $80 + $5 for the hill climb. I left at 8am and got back to Siem Reap at 8pm. Although I saved 10 dollars and the trip was highly authentic, I would recommend anyone wanting to go to book the private taxi from the travel shop near the end of Pub street as they had it the cheapest. Fearing for your life in middle Cambodia is not cool, smart, big or clever.
IF YOU GO TO CAMBODIA YOU HAVE TO SEE PRASAT PREAH VIHEAR.