Overshadowed by the mind-blowing temples of Angkor, tranquil Koh Ker is worth visiting for a different take on Khmer architecture. And minus the crowds, too.

panorama morning pyramid Prasat Thom Koh Ker temples Cambodia

The mighty step pyramid of Prasat Thom. The view on top is of surrounding jungle and a small village amid the trees. But lots of weird insects buzzing about in the morning.

The most significant temple at Koh Ker is Prasat Thom, which seems more Mayan than Khmer. The Prasat Thom pyramid rises seven‑tiers and 36-metres and was probably the state temple of King Jayavarman IV.

Prasat Kra Chap Koh Ker temples Cambodia

Prasat Kra Chap

Jayavarman IV was the city’s most ambitious ruler, constructing an enormous water-tank and about 40 temples. City inscriptions state that at least 10,000 inhabitants lived in the capital during his reign.

koh ker temples cambodia

TOP LEFT: Approaching pyramid of Prasat Thom. TOP RIGHT: Ruined interior of Prasat Banteay Pir Chean. LOWER PIX Left to Right: Tree strangled temple at Prasat Bram; My moto driver at his house, with wife and kid. He spoke virtually no English but via charades we managed fine. His wife washed clothes for a living; Elephant statues at Prasat Dramrei.

At this stage in history, the state religion of the Khmer Empire was Hinduism, not Buddhism. Originally Koh Ker was called Lingapura. And today it’s still noted for temples that house large stone lingas (phallic symbols associated with Hindu Gods like Shiva).

Prasat Neang Khmau temple Koh Ker Cambodia

Prasat Neang Khmau

Koh Ker was the capital of the Khmer empire very briefly, between 928–944 AD. Before being superseded by the city of Angkor (130 km south-west).

Panorama photo Prasat Bram temple ruins strangler fig trees Koh Ker Cambodia

Amid the hot mid-day heat – in the dry season – amid the temple complex of Prasat Bram; strangler fig trees clambering over the small red-brick structures.

Koh Ker – Travel Advice

GETTING THERE: I hired a taxi motor-bike from Phear Vihear city (also called Tbeng Meanchey) and the quiet road is paved all the way. Pay $20-25 return, including the distance of 140 km+ and waiting and driving around the site – as the temples are too spread out and it’s well hot, also. The other alternative – that most people do: take a group tour or hire a private taxi from Siem Reap, as there’s no public transport to Koh Ker or around the site.

COST: Entrance ticket is $10.

TIPS: There are few tourists here yet – cool; take your time and explore. Go in the early morning to avoid the heat. Take water, sunscreen, etc. There’s very little infrastructure. But you can stay in a local house nearby. Drinks and simple meals – noodles + rice with meat + vege – are available at the Prasat Thom entrance only.

DANGER: Stay on established tracks as mines are still an issue in the area.

Travels in Cambodia – 2014

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