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"Short stories and travel reports from my life adventures around the globe".

Travel Report: Preah Khan Temple, Cambodia.

Preah Khan Temple Cambodia.

Preah Khan Temple, Cambodia.

January 2020. Angkor Wat has one of the world’s most celebrated sunsets. Bayon Temple is all about its dramatic carved faces. Ta Prohm has stupendously tangled trees and the Tomb Raider connection. Banteay Kdei boasts a wondrous location opposite Srah Srang Lake, while Banteay Srei treats you to the most intricate hand carvings on Planet Earth. Hugely impressed by each of The Angkor Temples we’d seen thus far, we wondered what Preah Khan would bring to the table as we made the long, dusty approach to its north entrance.

Visit Preah Khan Temple.

The north entrance.

Preah Khan Temple.

As we would soon find out, Preah Khan’s driving force is … put simply… that it’s bloody huge! In fact, there are historians claiming it may be the largest of The Angkor Temples. So vast is Preah Khan that it was essentially a temple city rather than a standard complex. In its heyday, the massive compound was home to over one hundred thousand people! Moreover, it even featured a prestigious Buddhist University.

Headless statues Preah Khan Temple Cambodia.

Losing one’s head at Preah Khan Temple.

Like so many Angkor Temples, it was King Jayavarman who ordered its creation. Known in Khmer as Temple of the Holy Sword, construction began in the late 11th century. The King later lived here for a few years while waiting for Angkor Thom to be built. Eventually, he had the place dedicated to his father. When visiting Preah Khan, there are a number of access points. We entered via the north entrance, guarded by a pair of headless statues.

Preah Khan Temple.

Preah Khan Temple.

We certainly didn’t need to be told about Preah Khan’s vastness. In terms of size, no other temple we’d seen so far could compare. The place is an absolute maze, hence it’s easy to get properly lost. If one chooses to simply go straight, its vaulted corridors can feel infinite.

Temple of the Holy Sword.

Preah Khan Temple Cambodia.

Preah Khan Temple.

Branch off here and there and you’ll find yourself in open courtyards and squares of impassable, overgrown rubble. Thanks to the amazing work of The WMF (World Monuments Fund), Preah Khan is actually very well preserved. Especially in comparison to more high profile temples nearby, such as Ta Prohm.

Preah Khan Cambodia.

Preah Khan Temple.

Restoration work began in 1991. This was the first Angkor Temple project of its kind, following the end of Cambodia’s terrible Civil War.

Ancient carvings Preah Khan Temple Cambodia.

Ancient carvings at Preah Khan.

Some historians have described Preah Khan as the ultimate fusion temple. Built as a Buddhist complex, it features surviving depictions of Buddha. However, most of these were destroyed or changed in the 13th century following King Jayavarman’s conversion to Hinduism. Thus visitors can also spot plenty of carvings dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma.

Preah Khan Temple.

Tangled tree Preah Khan Temple Cambodia.

One of Preah Khan’s amazing tangled trees.

In Preah Khan’s cavernous outer enclosures, there are a number of breathtaking tangled trees. Reaching for the clouds, twisting and turning, monstrous of root; these trees are every bit as impressive as those at Ta Prohm.

Outer enclosure Preah Khan Cambodia.

Preah Khan Temple.

On our way out of Preah Khan that afternoon we finally got to see some of Angkor’s famous monkey population. There were over twenty of them chilling out on some ruins near the entrance to Angkor Thom.

Monkeys outside Angkor Thom Temple Cambodia.

The Angkor Monkeys.

Despite the warning signs, a small crowd had gathered to throw fruit and take photographs. There was even a row of Khmer photographers setting up tripods from a distance. The monkeys gratefully accepted any food on offer, but didn’t seem particularly troublesome and mostly kept to themselves. A lovely end to another fantastic temple visit in Cambodia.

Temple monkey Siem Reap Cambodia.

A regal Angkor monkey.

You can visit Preah Khan with The Angkor Pass, purchased both online and in person at The Angkor Archaeological Park Ticket office. At the time of writing, foreign tourists have been virtually wiped out due to COVID-19. As a result, those lucky enough to be in Cambodia have an unprecedented opportunity to see the temple free from the usual crowds. If you can, don’t even hesitate!

Angkor Archaeological Park Ticket Office Cambodia.

Angkor Archaeological Park Ticket Office.

For more on this incredible region of Cambodia, check out more of my travel reports on The Temples of Angkor.

You can also read my exhaustive guide to the sights, cafes, restaurants and hotels of Siem Reap.

Or maybe delve further afield with my travel reports from across Cambodia.

I’ve been living, working and traveling all over the world since 2001. So why not check out my huge library of travel reports from over 30 countries.

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12 Comments

  • Markus + Micah

    Thank you for the tour. So lucky, the tourists that are left in Cambodia now. They have the place to themselves! We had tickets to visit but the pandemic cancelled them. Oh well. I will just enjoy your photos for now.

    July 16, 2020 - 3:02 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment. The Angkor Temples are amazing. Later this month, I’ll be posting about Koh Ker, which I really think is Cambodia’s jewel in the crown. Keep an eye open for these articles. Thanks again!

      July 16, 2020 - 3:05 pm Reply
  • Just_Me :)

    I remember visiting all these temples a few years ago and luckily, there were very few people then. It was too hot but it’s all worth it.

    July 16, 2020 - 8:46 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Very cool. Did you also make it to Koh Ker?

      July 16, 2020 - 8:53 pm Reply
      • Just_Me :)

        If I remember it right, Koh Ker is the pyramid-shaped shrime/temple, right? If so, yeah, I was able to visit the place, too.🙂

        July 16, 2020 - 9:00 pm
      • Leighton

        That’s the one. Perhaps my favorite of them all.

        July 16, 2020 - 9:14 pm
      • Just_Me :)

        It’s difficult to pick a favorite… they’re all marvelous!

        July 16, 2020 - 9:23 pm
  • 100 Country Trek

    Cambodia is an incredible place to visit…would love to return…someday.

    July 16, 2020 - 11:08 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Totally agree. After six months in Siem Reap we will soon be relocating to Kampot and very much looking forward to exploring there. Thanks for reading!

      July 16, 2020 - 11:10 pm Reply
  • thewritingape

    Awesome, I cannot wait to go there, it is next in my bucket list!!!

    July 18, 2020 - 9:54 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Hope you can make it here soon! Thanks for reading.

      July 18, 2020 - 12:23 pm Reply

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