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Sambor Pre Kuk

Date of Construction:
7th century C.E. (Pre-Angkorian)

Religious Affiliation:
Hinduism

Patron or King:
Isanavarman I

Artistic/Archeo Style:
Sambor Prei Kuk

Location:
Kampong Thom province

Location of Entrance:
North road entrance

Duration of Visit:
half-day

Time to Visit:
Anytime.

Photography Notes:

Position:

Sambor Prei Kuk is a collection of 7th century temple ruins located in Kampong Thom province about 120km from Siem Reap town. Consisting of dozens of impressive brick prasats in semi-cleared jungle, many ruins displaying excellent examples of early Khmer art.

This pre-Angkorian complex is a important destination for the serious temple visitor. Sambor Prei Kuk are the ruins of the city of Isanapura, the capital of the pre-Angkorian Khmer kingdom known from Chinese chronicles as Zhendla (Chenla.) The city was constructed by Isanavarman I (r. 616-635AD) when Zhendla was at its apex more than 150 years before the rise of Angkor.

There are three main complexes: Preah Sambor/North Group; Preah Tor (‘Lion Temple’)/Central Group; Preah Yeay Poun/South Group as well as a number of minor ruins. The main temple complexes are walled, containing a number of prasats in differing states of ruin. Some of the carvings on the prasats’ lintels, columns and pilasters are in very good shape and display wonderfully detailed examples of pre-Angkorian artistry. Large bas-reliefs rendered in brick on the prasats and compound walls represent some of the earliest use of this art form in Khmer art. Octagon shaped prasats are another comparatively unique architectural feature found at Sambor Prei Kuk. Ruin N7 in the North Group and several of the structures in the South Group are octagonal and in relatively good condition.

Tour: A quick walking tour of the main temples takes a bit more than an hour. Enter at the north side of the North Group. The prasats of the North Group are square and rectangular (except N7) and are in varying states of ruin. Proceed through the North Group to Central Group and visit C1, the ‘Lion Temple,’ a large prasat so-named for the lions statues guarding the east door. Loop through the South Group which has several interesting structures in good condition, extensive bas-reliefs and carvings. Walk back through the North Group to N17 (unimpressive but the oldest structure at Sambor Prei Kuk) and then to N18, a picturesque prasat almost completely engulfed in a huge tree. As most of the temples face east, the morning hours present the best photographic light.

Directions: Sambor Prei Kuk can be visited in a day trip from Siem Reap or Phnom Penh or, if your transportation allows, in a stop over on the road trip (National Route #6) between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. The ruins are about 35km/50 minutes outside of Kampong Thom town (hotel and restaurants available in town.)

 

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