CAMBODIA: It has survived centuries of monsoon rains, a US bombing campaign and rampant looting.
Now the ancient temple city of Sambor Prei Kuk in Cambodia is finally ready for a renaissance – and is teasing tourists to its forest-cocooned ruins.
Cloistered by trees and linked by winding dirt trails, the site has played second fiddle to its much bigger cousin to the west – Angkor Wat – Cambodia’s top tourist destination.
But in July it gained a listing by the Unesco World Heritage, promising a tourist bonanza that could breathe new life into a once-thriving 6th and 7th century metropolis.
“We have already seen more and more local and foreign tourists flocking to visit our site,” said Hang Than, an official who manages the compound, as he strolled towards one of several temples spectacularly wrapped in tree roots.
Sambor Prei Kuk temple complex in bucolic Kompong Thom province was recently added to Cambodia’s list of UNESCO World Heritage sites. Set amidst forest and shaded by towering trees, the unique late 6th century temple city is one of Cambodia’s oldest.
Around 170kms from Siem Reap, Sambor Prei Kuk – which means “the temple in the richness of the forest” in Khmer – is a sprawling complex of one hundred temples scattered over nearly 1,400 hectares of forest, rice paddies and marshlands on the west bank of the Steung Sen or Sen River in rural Kompong Thom.
One of Cambodia’s more off the beaten track archaeological sites, Sambor Prei Kuk sees nowhere near the numbers of the least visited temples in Angkor Archaeological Park near Siem Reap.
The “temple in the richness of the forest” in Cambodia survives amidst a tropical rainforest that both reinforces and dismantles the structure.
Congratulations to Cambodia’s Sambor Prei Kuk, which was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status this month! The ruins dedicated to Shiva date back as far as the 6th century, originally constructed as a royal sanctuary and capital called Isanapura.
Sambor Prei Kuk, or “temple in the richness of the forest” in the Khmer language, is a modest name for a compound of over 150 Hindu sets of ruins including 10 octagonal towers, sanctuaries, prasats (castles), Shival lingams and yonis (female fertility signs), ponds and reservoirs, and lion sculptures made from brick and sandstone. The forest that nominally humbles the extraordinary grounds is a shady, sub-tropical jungle.
PHNOM PENH: Tourists flocked to Cambodia’s newest world heritage site on the weekend, the 16th and 17th century forest temple of Sambor Prei Kuk after it was recently added to the UN cultural organisation’s heritage list.
With its inspiring and tumultuous history, Cambodia attracts tourists from around the world who often make a beeline for the Angkor Wat temple complex, another world heritage site.
On July 8, Unesco added Sambor Prei Kuk or “temple in the richness of the forest” in the Khmer language to its heritage list. Located 206km north of the capital Phnom Penh, it is home to numerous temples, 10 of which are octagonal.