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Published: February 22nd 2015
Our next day trip promised to be a long one, and we were ready and waiting when the mini bus pulled up outside Horizons around 8.00am. Today we're visiting Prasat Preah Vihear, a temple further north from Siem Reap, on the Thai border. But first, a history lesson.....
Preah Vihear, a Hindu inspired 11th century temple, is located in the Dongrek Mountains, which hug the border between Cambodia and Thailand. It is perched on the edge of a giant cliff, about 625 metres above sea level in Preah Vihear Province, Northern Cambodia, 625klm from the capital city of Phnom Penh and 270klm from Siem Reap.
The magnificent ruins of this ancient Hindu temple have been the cause of serious border skirmishes between Thai and Cambodian soldiers at recent as 2011, when 17 people were killed during an exchange of gunfire. The skirmishes come amid conflicting claims over ownership and an age-old historic rivalry, dating back a century. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled the temple belonged to Cambodia in 1962, and reconfirmed this ruling in 2013. It was declared Cambodia's 2nd World Heritage UNESCO listed site in 2008, the first being Angkor Wat.
There is now a
Preah Vihear Temple
Holding things together...
demilitarised zone around Preah Vihear, established in 2011 by the ICJ, so all troops on either side had to withdraw. There was a military presence at the temple, as some surrounding lands still have undefined borders. We could see a lone Thai soldier standing on a rocky outcrop just across the way, in Thailand.
To obtain a ticket to visit Preah Vihear we had to show our passports. No Thai nationals are allowed to visit the temple, and access from Thailand, even for tourists, has been denied. Foreign visitors in Cambodia have only been allowed unlimited access to the site since last year.
Today we were travelling with Blue Bird Tours and the cost was $41. Our trip, in an air conditioned mini van, seemed a little disorganised at first and it took ages to actually hit the road. Two stops for fuel, another for water, and another for breakfast because someone was hungry, so we pulled into Khmer Angkor Kitchen opposite Sras Srang in Angkor Archeological Park, less than an hour after being picked up.
Honestly this place had the worst service I've ever received! Carolyn and I ordered toast and tea, which took the attendant
four trips to get right. The hungry passenger, for whom this stop was made, never received the eggs she ordered at all! So another stop was made after leaving here, for her to buy something to eat from a roadside shop. It was all starting to seem like a big waste of time, would we ever just get going!
Eventually we got underway, arriving at the ticket office 2.5 hours later, a lot earlier than I expected as I thought the trip took four hours. We travelled via Anlong Veng and didn't pass through Sra Em, the closest town, at all.
Lunch was eaten at the one and only eatery there, and wasn't included in the trip price. Passports were collected by our driver who purchased our tickets for us. The ticket office was once a village school but the village was moved when the area became a demilitarised zone. The last 6klm up to the temple were steep and had to be done by either moto or four wheel drive. As there were six in our group we were taken up by four wheel drive, sitting in the back on plank seats under a canopy, it was
Preah Vihear Temple
The now unused entrance from Thailand
a fun trip.
The temple has four levels and four courtyards which comprise of five gopuras, or entrance pavilions. It is composed of a series of sanctuaries linked by a system of pavements and staircases and is over 800 metres long. This temple is particularly well preserved, mainly due to its remote location. Our local guide was excellent, he was very informative and friendly, happy to answer questions as he pointed out the best spots for photos.
We didn't arrive back in Siem Reap until 7.30pm
and asked to be dropped in Pub Street as we needed to have dinner. A pizza and salad at the Red Piano rounded off a really good day!
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