The ancient temple complex of Sambor Prei Kuk predates those at Angkor and this is a good place to visit before heading to see Cambodia’s national monument. Originally known as Isanapura, Sambor Prei Kuk was the capital of Chenla during the reign King Isanavarman in the early 7th century.
Sambor Prei Kuk contains more than one hundred red brick temples scattered through a pretty forest. Cool shade is provided by the thick vegetation, making this a pleasant place to explore slowly. Follow the sandy paths through the forest, which lead to ponds and shrines as well as quietly crumbling temples.
Visitors will discovere that all of the temples of Sambor Prei Kuk fall into three main groups. While the first and most popular group is known as Prasat Sambor, is dedicated to the Shiva incarnation known to the Khmer people as Gambhireshvara.
Situated in the heart of the forest, the Prasat Yeay Peau group is extremely peaceful, while Prasat Tao – also known as Lion Temple – is one of the largest temples in Sambor Prei Kuk and features two large lions carved by the Chenla people.
There is a craft shop near the entrance to Sambor Prei Kuk where you can pick up a souvenir or two and learn more about this interesting site. There are also a number of food stalls where you can buy a basic meal and a cold drink.
The main part of this interesting complex can be explored in two or three hours, although it is worth taking the time to soak up Sambor Prei Kuk’s uniwque atmosphere and explore each temple in detail.
Sambor Prei Kuk is located about 20 miles to the north of the town of Kompong Thom. This is a good place to spend the night and get a decent meal before heading off to Siem Reap to explore the mighty Angkor temple complex.