Prasat Hin Phimai is a Khmer temple located in Phimai Historical Park, less than 50 kilometers from Korat in Northeastern Thailand and almost 300 kilometers from Bangkok. The park is in the town of Phimai, Nakhon Ratchasima province. It was one of the Khmer empire’s most important cities, situated at the end of the imperial road from the Khmer capital of Angkor.
Prasat Hin Phimai is home to Thailand’s largest sandstone sanctuary measuring 30 meters tall and home to the country’s largest collection of Khmer buildings. Prasat Hin Phimai’ cultural and physical is recognized by UNESCO and is one of its World Heritage Sites.
The temple was built in the late 11th and early 12th centuries. Its enclosed area measures 1020 meters by 580 meters, making it comparable in size to Angkor Wat. However, there are some differences between the two temples. Prasat Hin Phimai was built as a Buddhist temple, unlike Angkor Wat and many other Khmer temples which were originally dedicated to Hindu deities. Another main difference between the two temples is the location of its respective sanctuaries. Angkor Wat’s is located on a huge man-made mountain while the smaller one at Phimai is on a flat platform only a few feet from the ground. The Khmer temple is near the Mun River, a tributary of the Mekong River. The sanctuary and nearby waterway represents Mount Semeru, a similar concept to Hindu’s Mount Meru.
The temple consists of three rectangular enclosures. The first enclosure or outer wall serves as a protective wall for the city of Phimai. Within this outer wall lies a middle wall which encloses a large open space with a causeway leading to the last inner wall, which surrounds the sanctuary.
Within the middle enclosure is a raised area used to display lintel fragments found within the grounds. There are about half a dozen pieces on display here because they are too delicate to be placed in their original locations. The platform is also conveniently located under several large trees, making it a perfect place to relax and cool off for a while.
The sanctuary in the inner enclosure is flanked by two all-white sandstone antechambers along with two ruined towers. There is a Buddha image protected by a naga (a mythical serpent deity) in the sanctuary. The tower of the main sanctuary is widely assumed to be a model for the towers of Angkor, which was built several years later.
Phimai National Museum is 300 meters from Phimai Historical Park. It is home to many Dvaravati and Khmer artifacts from the lower Isaan region. The main attraction of the museum is a stone statue of King Jayavarman VII, which was found at Prasat Hin Phimai.
Just at the edge of Phimai town, on the other side of the ancient reservoir built by the Khmers, a huge banyan tree offers an excellent place to rest and unwind after exploring the temples of Phimai. Named Sai Ngam by the locals, the tree is so big that it actually looks like a forest. The golden fig (as it is known in the West) is a very important symbol in Buddhism because Buddha himself found enlightenment while sitting under a banyan tree. Sai Ngam is also a popular picnic spot for Thais, with a large selection of food stalls located nearby.
Exotissimo’s Isaan Insight tour is a great package detailing the Northeast region of Thailand. Start off the tour with a visit to Phimai Historical Park and make your way to several destinations of the region. You will be introduced to Isaan’s distinct culture and appreciate the quiet and rustic charm of this relatively unexplored area of Thailand. You can also see our Thailand tours page for other memorable trips into the country or contact us if you have any questions or would like to tailor any of our tours to meet your needs.
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