Travel Report: The Black Lady Temple, Koh Ker.
The Black Lady Temple, Koh Ker, Cambodia.
June 2020. It had been a long, fruitful morning exploring the isolated temple ruins of Koh Ker. Now, edging into the unforgiving temperatures of early afternoon, Sladja and I found ourselves at the day’s penultimate stop. We’d been looking forward to this one, mostly due to its curious name. Not so much its official title, Prasat Neang Khmao, but rather its ominous nickname, The Black Lady.
The temple gives off a pleasingly malicious vibe the moment you step into the complex. Perched on a square sandstone base, The Black Lady is a single laterite tower of grey, black and dark blue. This odd colour, historians say, is the result of an oxidation process.
Dark, slender and oozing a delightful evil, there are some wonderfully wicked theories as to how it got its name. The boring version is that it is literally a reference to the stone’s unusual colour. One legend claims it may have been dedicated to Kali, the Hindu Goddess of Destruction.
Another old story involves the beautiful daughter of King Jayavarman IV. The dark-skinned beauty fell in love with her bodyguard, but the king forbade his daughter to marry under her station. This sent her into a murderous, indiscriminate rampage, from which the name arose.
The Black Lady Temple, Koh Ker.
I like to think that the temple could’ve been Saruman’s despicable study, or perhaps Darth Vader’s devilish summerhouse. “My lady, oh how I have missed you”. Another unusual feature is that the entrance door is western facing, whereas most Koh Ker temples have doors opening to the east.
Inside the chamber, we found a small linga shrine decorated with recent offerings. Some water, flowers, plant leaves and a little fruit, all rapidly spoiling in the afternoon heat.
Prasat Neang Khmao Temple, Koh Ker.
Gaze up the tower’s open roof and the nefarious, horror movie feel returns.
Another thing worth mentioning is that the Black Lady has her own guardian. Not typical among the ruins of Koh Ker. He was a friendly Khmer man who’d been napping in his hammock prior to our arrival. Upon seeing us, he sat up and asked our driver where we were from. Whatever The Black Lady’s evil crimes, she obviously hasn’t done this old dude any harm.
If you want to visit Koh Ker, bear in mind that you can’t gain access with The Angkor Pass. Instead, there’s a separate entry fee before you enter the forest. Tickets go for $15 per person.
Check out more of my reports from The Temples of Koh Ker.
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