Prasat Preah Vihear

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Choam Ksant, Cambodia

Prasat Preah Vihear Choam Ksant Reviews

amylaichareonsup amylaich…
27 reviews
Khmer ruins nestled in the Dangrek Mountains offering a magnificent view Oct 03, 2014
Wow. What an adventure. I left Sikhiu in Nakhon Ratchasima province (where I lived and taught English for a semester)on Wed Oct 1, 2014 and got to Korat Bus Terminal around noon that day. The bus to Kantharalak would depart at 2pm but it was 10 to 3 when it actually departed. The entire bus, save for 3 civilians including me, was full of Thai soldiers. When I got to Kantharalak just before 9 pm, I was greeted by a light show of a carnival adjacent to the bus terminal. It was bizarre that this non-descript looking town had a massive carnival, and a large Tesco Lotus as well! 2 drivers for hire approached me and I inquired about my intended destination: Preah Vihear, the 11th century temple nestled in the mountains separating Thailand and Kampuchea, which has been the subject of border disputes for the last decade or so, since part of the temple (the steps leading up)is in Kantharalak district, on Thai soil, and part is in Choam Khsant province, on Kampuchean soil. Casualties and losses have occured, including damage to the temple. The 2 drivers for hire told me that the closest border had been closed due to unrest and I would have to hire a car and driver to get there. One of the men was wearing a severely faded pink t shirt and had sak yant tattoos. I asked for a moment and walked to the information booth of the empty bus terminal. There was a man seated there who looked like he was dozing off and I asked him if I really had to hire a car and driver to Preah Vihear. He said yes, that that was the case. Ugh! The man in the pink t shirt had followed me in and I asked for his phone number in case i needed his services. He showed me a guesthouse right around the corner from the bus terminal and I thanked him and went in search of a clean bed. The rooms at Sala Villa were pretty decent, and clean. I asked the receptionist about transport to Preah Vihear and she told me the same thing that I was told at the bus terminal, the border at Kantharalak closest to Preah Vihear had been closed. Ughhh. She yelled across the room at a man across the lobby and asked if he'd be willing to drive that way. Apparently he was the receptionist's brother. He also quoted 300 baht less than the drivers at the bus terminal. I said, "Alright, 5:30 am tomorrow. See you then."

And so the journey began the following day, about 150 km to Choam border, and some of the roads were paved, but with huge potholes. If the driver's truck had been an automatic, he surely would have lost his transmission, a couple times. We arrived at the Choam immigration checkpoint just after 7:30. I thanked my driver and paid him, then proceeded to have my passport inspected. When i had officially arrived in Kampuchea, there were a group of smartly dressed immigration officers sat around a table, not doing much of anything. I told them where I intended to go, and one of them told me it was another 250 km away from the checkpoint. Ha! The only attraction near Choam border was a bloody casino. I had used my Thai passport to enter Kampuchea, and Thais are forbidden to enter Preah Vihear. I had to speak to yet another immigration officer, showed him on my passport that I was actually born in the USA, and he relented, but told me under no circumstances was I to speak Thai or show my Thai passport to anyone. The price quoted for a car and driver was absolutely horrendous, but I said,"Freck it. I'm here. Let's go!" So off we went, my driver and I, through many red dirt roads, herds of cows, villages, and after stopping on numerous occasions at military checkpoints, I spotted the Dangrek Mountains where my coveted temple was built on. We passed several military checkpoints, ornate gated homes, wood houses on stilts with red tiled ceilings in rows like little soldiers, and finally, a path with makeshift wooden structures on either side and a little shanty hut with a sleepy soldier in it. I don't think my driver had ever been to Preah Vihear because he stopped on several occasions for directions. We drove right by Preah Vihear ticket booth and had to make a u turn up the red dirt road and then pulled into the ticket booth. The entire place was teeming with monks and locals, I never saw a single tourist the entire time I was there. Tickets were on a donation basis. From the ticket booth, the path up the mountain could only be accessed by motorbike, $5 for a bike with a driver. At first I thought the girl at the ticket booth meant I had to ride the bike up 525 meters on my own and I laughed, cuz it might have taken me 2 days to get up there. The moto driver was very very skilled, thank buddha, and he had a green plastic container filled with petrol strapped to the middle console of his motorbike. The inclines were severely steep, but the view! Oh the view! I nearly flew off a few times, as I was too busy gawking at the scenery. We passed a few shacks that were people's homes and a few hundred meters away, parked the bike. It was about 10:30 am at the time. There were several food stalls, and I bought a bottle of water, then proceeded up a slushy stone path. There was natural spring water seeping out everywhere, and the stone path had been eroded in many places. A few hundred more meters and I saw the UNESCO and United Nations flags, the Kampuchean flag, and my long awaited ruins. Preah Vihear, declared a UNESCO site in 2008, was built along a north-south axis, unlike the rectangular plan of most Angkor temples. The temple is about 800 meters from beginning to end, and is quite easy to climb, albeit uphill. Many of the steps were actually huge misshapen boulders with gaps throughout. I wonder how strong people in olden days must have been to carry boulders up a mountain to build such an impressive structure. I was loitering about near the top tier of ruins and a Khmer soldier was perched on a cliff with his telescope and gestured for me to come over. He said," Look! See Thailand!" I held the telescope to my eye and saw a Thai flag & red roofed sala perched on Phu Singh, on the Thai side of the mountains, and it was teeming with tourists and a few Thai soldiers. It felt weird, like I was spying on my own country or something. I thanked the soldier, turned his telescope back towards him, and began my journey back down the mountain. Another dream, fulfilled.
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