Hidden in the forests of Preah Vihear province, enigmatic Koh Ker is finally on the visitor map thanks to improved roads and mine clearance. It was built during the reign of King Jayavarman IV (r.928– 42), who had moved the capital of Angkor here for a brief period. Not long ago, it was one of the most inaccessible and heavily mined Angkorian temples. Today, visitors can safely reach and explore these ruins on a day trip from Siem Reap.
The complex has over 100 temples with 42 significant structures, the most impressive of which is Prasat Thom, a 131-ft (40-m) high, 180-ft (55-m) wide, seven-tiered sandstone pyramid. Complete with a steep central stairway, it offers dramatic views of the Kulen Mountain and the Dangkrek Mountains to the southwest and north west respectively. A giant garuda (mythical beast, half-man, half-bird) statue sits atop the summit. To the southwest of Prasat Thom lies the huge Rahal Baray, into which the Stung Sen had been diverted to irrigate Koh Ker. Prasat Krahom, the second largest temple in the complex, is notable for its graceful lintel carvings, and its naga-flanked causeway. Also of interest are the temples Prasat Thneng and Prasat Leung, both of which lay claim to the largest Shivalingas (phallic symbols) in Cambodia. Visitors can hire a car to go around the complex, but it is best visited as part of an organized tour from Siem Reap. The site is patrolled and maintained by the Apsara Authority’s Community Heritage Patrol.