The mind-blowing temples of Angkor are wondrous, yet nearby is another amazing site that’s mostly ignored.
But Koh Ker is TOTALLY worth visiting, especially for the step pyramid of Prasat Thom.
AND this site lacks the crowds.
Prasat Thom Pyramid is the most significant temple at Koh Ker
Get there early and clamber up the steps of the pyramid, rising seven‑tiers and 36-meters high. It was probably the state temple of King Jayavarman IV.
The Koh Ker temples: a brief history
History recalled Jayavarman IV as the city’s most ambitious ruler. That he constructed an enormous water-tank and about 40 temples.
And during his reign, at least 10,000 inhabitants lived in the capital.
At this stage in Khmer history, the state religion was Hinduism, not Buddhism. Back in the day, Koh Ker was called Lingapura because the temples housed stone lingas, which are the phallic symbols associated with the Hindu God: Shiva.
The city was the capital of the Khmer empire but Angkor superseded it.
How to get to the temples of Koh Ker
GETTING THERE: I hired a taxi motor-bike from Phear Vihear city (also called Tbeng Meanchey) on a paved road all the way.
I paid $20-25 return
This included a distance of 140 km, waiting and driving around the site, as the temples are too far spread to walk.
AND – and it’s hot. (Baking if you time it in Summer).
The other alternative, which most people do, is to take a group tour or hire a taxi from Siem Reap (located 130 km south-west), as there’s no public transport to Koh Ker or around the site.
Koh Ker entrance costs $10
TIPS for visiting Koh Ker: Few tourists yet; take your time and explore!
Go in the early morning to avoid the heat.
Take water, sunscreen, hat.
There’s very little infrastructure (in 2014). But you can stay in a local house nearby.
Drinks and simple meals – noodles + rice with meat + veg – are available at the “Temple Pyramid” entrance, only.