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Daytrip to Koh Ker

2 Jul 2010  Solo traveler, prefers eating local food to western fare, likes gettingg off the beaten path regardless fo discomfort factor.
4.5 of 5 stars based on 41 votes

Heading to one of the further-off temple complexes for the day.

  • Explore locations featured in this Trip List: Preah Vihear Province, Siem Reap Province
  • Category: Perfect day
  • Traveler type: Sightseeing, Active/Outdoors, Repeat visitors
  • Appeals to: Active/adventure
  • Seasons: Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
  • 1. Koh Ker
    Koh Ker Temple, Preah Vihear Province, Cambodia

    Koh Ker (pronounce it "ko-KAY" or else no local person is going to understand you) is one of the more remote temple complexes northeast of Siem Reap. The trip will take the better part of a day, and will take approximately 2.5 hours by car ($100 or so) or 3~4 hours by moto (around $50 to hire a guy to take you on the back of his bike).

    I headed out with my moto guy at 6:00am, when it was still dark out. In January, this was VERY cold, so be sure you have a couple layers of warm clothing on if you are heading out by motorcycle. You will pass Beng Mealea (I didn't stop here as I have seen it twice before) and heading further to Koh Ker you will have to stop and pay a $10 road toll. Since we were absolutely freezing, this was a good opportunity to get off the bike to thaw out a bit and make a pit stop (nice public toilet facilites here).
    Around 8:00am, we stopped at a village for noodle soup and iced coffee for breakfast (my butt was getting sore at this point!).
    When we arrived at around 9:30am, the place sun was coming out and we were warming up a bit, and we found the place entirely devoid of other vistors.
    Koh Ker is quite spread out, and you can stop and spend as much time as you want at each site, exploring the ruins. The impressive Prasat Thom, a 7-tiered pyramid, and its surrounding complex of structures in various stages of ruin, are in and around a grassy field which makes for good photography opportunities. Unfortunately, visitors are no longer able to climb to the top of the pyramid, so do not attempt this. There is a stand outside the pyramid complex where you can eat lunch and relax over a cold beer (good food here!). After lunch, we strolled around a bit more and then headed back. We arrived back in Siem Reap at 5:30pm.
    Expect to spend at least 2 hours at the site (I think we were there for 3 hours).
    Do be aware that this area is mined, so it would not be recommended to go traipsing off into the woods. Stay on the trails in and around the complex. When I visited in January 2008, there were active mining camps set up, and we heard one being detonated!!
    Unless you plan on stopping in villages along the way, it is a good idea to bring a few bottles of water with you.

  • 2. Beng Mealea
    Beng Mealea, Siem Reap Province, Cambodia

    12th century temple, 60 kms from Siem Reap. You will have to pay a road toll of $5 on the way. While in the past, a trip to Beng Mealea warranted hiring a local to guide you over and under the ruins, exploring hidden portals and reliefs, a sprawling wooden walkway has been installed throughout the entire complex. While I personally think this takes most of the charm out of it, it is now much easier for those less adventurous to safely navigate the complex. There are still plenty of ruins to clamber over, just make sure you have sensible footwear to attempt this (sneakers or sturdy trekking sandals).

  • 3. Phnom Kulen
    Phnom Kulen National Park, Siem Reap Province, Cambodia

    Phnom Kulen is considered by many Khmers a very holy place, and many make the pilgrimage to pray at the reclining buddha there (note that he is lying with his head to the right, very unusual!) and have a picnic lunch wiht theri families. While this place does not attract very may western tourists (partly because of the $20 road toll that every visitor must pay) it is good for a daytrip if you have a fair bit of time on your hands and would like to catch a glimpse of Cambodian culture. There are some waterfalls at the site and some riverbed carvings (nothing compared to what you can see at Kbal Spean) and also stands set up vending unusual grilled foods. Bring a T-shirt and shorts if you want to jump in the falls (best to exercise modesty here as it is a place that attracts mostly local people).