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Explore the Pre-Angkorian Jungle Ruins at Sambor Prei Kuk, Cambodia

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Sambor Prei Kuk is a collection of 7th century temples located in a remote jungle just off the town of Kampong Thom, about halfway between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.  There are over 100 brick and sandstone temples scattered throughout the area which are surrounded by the scenic Cambodian jungle.

Sambur Prei Kuk was the capital of the Chenla kingdom (an empire that pre-dates Angkor) which was then known as Isanapura during the reign of King Ishanavarman.  The main temple compound is made up of three complexes enclosed by what appears to be the remains of two concentric walls.  The arrangement of the compound, with its central tower flanked by shrines, ponds and gates could have served as inspiration for the Angkor temples built more than half a millennium later.

The first temple complex, Prasat Sambor is a collection of 11 sanctuaries built of brick and limestone, situated on the north side.  The sanctuary once consisted of 14 temples but only eight remain.  These were built and dedicated to Gambhireshvara, one of Shiva’s many incarnations.  Within this complex are several yonis (female fertility symbols) built from the Angkorian period, demonstrating the continuity between pre-Angkorian and Angkorian architecture and culture.

Probably the most atmospheric of the temple complexes has to be Prasat Yeay Peau.  The forest surrounding the complex adds even more mystique and mysteriousness to the area.  The eastern gate has been tattered and held into place by an old tree, with the bricks interwoven into the tree’s roots.  Another interesting structure that has been engulfed by nature is Prasat Chrey.  An old fig tree has somehow grown onto the structure and has overwhelmed it.

Prasat Tao (also known as Lion Temple) is the largest of the Sambor Prei Kuk complexes, comprising 18 temples with two fortifications near the pond.  The temple got its name from two excellently carved Chenla lion statues at the top of the main stairway.

Exotissimo’s Sambor Prei Kuk – Siem Reap day trip is an excellent way to explore these pre-Angkor temples and structures.  Well off the tourist trail and blissfully free of crowds, you may uncover these complexes deep in the Cambodian jungle either by foot or by bicycle along a network of shady paths.  You can also explore these ancient temples on our three day Phnom Penh to Siem Reap Overland tour.  Stop by Kamphong Thom on the way to Siem Reap from the capital and explore these beautiful jungle ruins.  You can also see our Cambodia tours page for other recommended trips into this remarkable country.

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