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Sambor Prei Kuk and Preah Khan

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Two major temple sites each lie within a day-trip of Kompong Thom. East off National Route 64, Sambor Prei Kuk is the site of a Chenla-era capital that once boasted hundreds of temples, although many of them have now been lost, perhaps smothered by the encroaching forest. Several temple groups have been cleared, and particularly fine brick carvings and decorated sandstone lintels and columns can be seen. Much further north, and more easily reached by cutting north from NR6, the temple enclosure of Preah Khan is the largest in Cambodia, its central sanctuary featuring the earliest example of four huge faces looking to the cardinal directions, a motif which later became a feature of many Cambodian temples.

Five kilometres north of Kompong Thom National Route 64 veers off to the north; a wide dirt road, it can be slow going in the rainy season. After about 10km, turn east where the fifteen-kilometre side road to Sambor Prei Kuk is decent enough.

Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as an easy trip to Preah Khan, around 70km to the northwest and actually in Preah Vihear province. It’s best approached from NR6, turning north about 20km west from Kompong Thom. From the turning the dirt road is in quite good condition for 40km, but deteriorates to little more than a path, with endless opportunities to head off in the wrong direction. In the dry season, starting from Kompong Thom early in the morning and arriving back after dark, it’s just possible to visit as a day-trip. In the rainy season it’s virtually impassable.

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