Koh Ker Temples, Siem-Reap

Quick Facts:

  • The entrance Fee: $10 (pay at the counter near the entrance to Beng Mealea temple)

From 928 AD to 944 AD, Koh Ker was the Capital of the Khmer Empire with some massive architectural works and magnificent sculptures. Nowadays, it plays a role as the archaeological site, representing the ruins of the ancient capital in the short period and attracting a large number of visitors every year. Travelers can use bike tours on the dirt road to discover the monuments hidden inside the forest.

Located about 130km to the north of Siem Reap, Koh Ker Temples is a desolated complex including a hundred destroyed temples covered by jungle, in which there is a giant stepped pyramid considered as the largest one in the area. They are the result of an ambitious construction plan of king Jayavarman IV and Harshavarman II (another son of Jayavarman IV) to built Koh Ker as the cultural, political and religious center of the entire empire in a short time. There were at least ten thousand people living in Koh Ker at that moment. After centuries of oblivion, the monuments were repaired and recovered in 2004 based on Cambodian standards about the Angkor monuments. However, visitors can enter only about two dozen relics, most prominently a huge water- reservoir, a double sanctuary (Prasat Thom/Prang), the seven tiered pyramid with the height of 36-metre (118 ft) and the twometer (6ft7) high shrines. Many of them were constructed in brick connected each other by using a mortar mixture made from tree sap. Besides, laterite and sandstone are still the major construction materials of Koh Ker as well as the architectural works of Angkor generally. However until now, the brick monuments are in more intact conditions than the laterite one.

Travelers will find here the stunning sculptures, characterizing for the brilliant artistic development reaching the peack of Koh Ker under the reign of Jayavarman IV. The ancient statues and sculptural decoration art in Koh Ker Temples bearing a mysterious, charming and elegant beauty will make you hard to take your eyes. However, almost all these beautiful sculptures are replicas because many of their originals were stolen and sold for the private collectors or exhibited in the collection of masterpieces of the National Museum in Phnom Penh and some other foreign museums. With the precious historical, cultural and artistic values, Koh Ker is added in on the tentative world heritage list of UNESCO.

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