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Travel Report: The Black Lady Temple, Koh Ker.

The Temple of the Black Lady 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.

Prasat Neang Khmao Temple Koh Ker.

The Black Lady Temple, Koh Ker.

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.

The Temple of the Black Lady Cambodia.

The Black Lady Temple, Koh Ker.

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.

Kali the Hindu Goddess of Destruction

Don’t mess with Kali.

Another old story involves the beautiful daughter of King Jayavarman IV. The princess 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, resulting in the flattering Black Lady nickname.

The Black Lady Temple, Koh Ker.

The Black Lady Temple Prasat Neang Khmao Cambodia.

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 Black 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.

Shrine Temple of the Black Lady Cambodia.

The Black Lady’s linga shrine.

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.

Prasat Neang Khmao Temple Cambodia.

The Black Lady 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 human guardian. This is not typical among the ruins of Koh Ker, indeed he was the only such caretaker we saw that day. A friendly local man, he’d been napping in his hammock prior to our arrival.

Temple guardian Koh Ker Cambodia.

The Black Lady Temple, Koh Ker.

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.

Black Lady Temple Koh Ker Cambodia.

The Black Lady Temple, Koh Ker.

Check out more of my reports from The Temples of Koh Ker.

You can also read my articles from the amazing Temples of Angkor.

Or maybe delve further afield with my travel reports from all 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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  • Memo

    There appears to be a small set of stairs in front and separated entirely from the temple. Stairs to nowhere?

    August 6, 2020 - 3:56 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Ha ha yes, stairs for stairs sake!

      August 6, 2020 - 4:14 pm Reply
  • Eromonsele Emmanuel

    I always like the background stories. Thanks for sharing Leighton.

    August 10, 2020 - 5:19 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Cheers Emmanuel!

      August 10, 2020 - 9:18 am Reply
  • My Ultimate Guide to Siem Reap - Day 2 - Gemini Gypsy Diaries

    […] way back, we stopped by the Black Lady. We were curious about how the name Black Lady came about. Leighton Travels visited Prasat Neang Khmau in June 2020 and describes his visit to the Black Lady temple. There are […]

    January 10, 2021 - 7:24 am Reply

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