Panorama Morning Pyramid Prasat Thom Koh Ker Temples Cambodia

Before Angkor, Came Koh Ker!


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.

Steep Temple Steps Amid Trees Koh Ker Cambodia
Looking at the steep steps of the Prasat Thom temple pyramid.

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.

koh ker temple pyramid panorama Prasat Thom Cambodia temples

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

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.

Lonely Prasat Neang Khmau Temple Koh Ker Cambodia
Lonely, Prasat Neang Khmau at this overlooked temple site.

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The city was the capital of the Khmer empire but Angkor superseded it.

Close Up Trees Strangling Temple Koh Ker Cambodia
A tree-strangled temple.

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).

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.

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.

Cambodia Moto Driver At His Wooden House With Wife And Kid

My moto driver at his house, with wife and kid. He took me to Koh Ker but spoke virtually no English, yet via charades, we managed fine. He told me his wife washed clothes for a living.

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.

Ruined Prasat Banteay Pir Chean Temple Cambodia
Ruined Prasat Banteay Pir Chean temple at Koh Ker in north-west Cambodia.

DANGER – Mines! Stay on established tracks.

Travels in Cambodia – 2014

Join the Journey

Get my FREE book of Crazy Travels & occasional updates

Join the Journey

Get my FREE book of Crazy Travels & occasional updates