Major Place of Interest – A Cambodian Temple
“For me, the Cambodian temple of Khao Phra Viharn is quite exceptional and it is one of my favourite places in Asia. It can be pretty hot there so an early start is essential. The only place to stay the night before is of course Suan Loong Daeng Farmstay’”
These are the words of Andrew Hicks, the author of the bestselling novel, “Thai Girl”, who is one of our regular visitors. The following is his description of the temple.
Prasat Khao Phra Vihan
The temple of Khao Phra Viharn is one of the most dramatic remnants of the extraordinary Khmer civilization, and is now on The World Heritage List! The temple was built by five different Khmer kings, starting in 889 AD, 300 years before Ankor Wat, which later became the center in this civilisation and left behind one of the biggest ancient temple complexes in the world.
As the Khmers controlled much of what is now Thailand, they built many of their temples here that can still be visited. By a quirk of fate, Khao Phra Viharn is in fact just inside Cambodia, though you can visit it from Thailand without any passport formalities. Being perched at the top of a cliff about 625 meters above sea level, it is almost inaccessible from Cambodia. From the Thai side, you walk across the border and then, climb up 800 meters through the temples to reach the main sanctuary. From the top you gaze out over the limitless expanse of the Cambodian plain, some 560 meters below.
When seen on a clear day, this view is one of the great sights of the world, comparable with East Africa’s Rift Valley and even perhaps the Grand Canyon. Before you and way below stretches unbroken jungle as far as the eye can see with not a building in sight, in front of you the peaks of the Dongrak mountains and to the left the mountainous spines of Laos.
After the Second World War, Thailand and Cambodia were in dispute over the temple, both claiming that it was within their territory. Eventually in 1962 the dispute was submitted to the International Court of Justice at The Hague. When the Court gave judgment, it came as a shock and affront to Thailand as the decision did not go their way. The Court held that the temple was within Cambodia.
The temple has long been the focus of conflicts of many sorts. In the Pol Pot era in the seventies, it was virtually a no-go area, and when Vietnam invaded Cambodia in 1978, it was fought over by rival factions. Indeed the Khmer Rouge held the area into the late eighties and one of their field guns can still be seen among the temples. Fighting was fierce and the wreckage of a crashed helicopter was only recently removed. While the core of the temple was cleared of land mines to allow safe access in 1991, mine clearance projects, funded by various sponsors are still in progress.
As one of the least known monuments, Khao Phra Viharn is an essential for any visitor who wants to base themselves here for a holiday and to discover something that is off the usual tourist routes.
More places of interest
Wat Laan Khuat (Million bottle temple)
This temple, where all buildings including the crematorium are made of empty bottles, is quite out of the ordinary. The monks’ chalets are spread among teak trees, where pairs of squirrels chase each other and look at you with eyes even bigger than the local kids.
Huai Luang waterfall
( Nam Tok Bak Theo Yai) in Phoo Chong Nayoi National Park is a nive for a day picnic, where you also can take a refreshing dive into the crystal clear water.
Local village life & silk production
Experience village life the way it has been for generations
Local mountain and waterfall
Trekking is possible.
Ratchathani Asoke – a special village
A community within the Asoke Buddhist Movement where many of the vegetarian habitants have taken a stand against materialism and consumerism, and wants to maintain a simple lifestyle through hard work and selflessness.
Where the mighty Mekong and Mun rivers join.
Pha Taem National Park
This national park offers amazing views across the river Mekong to Laos from the top of a sheer cliff on which you can see ancient rock paintings many thousands of years old. Before coming to the visitor centre there is an area with some unusual stone formations.