Located east of the Tonlé Sap Lake in Kompong Thom province, this 7th-century complex of temples was constructed during the reign of King Isanavarman I in the Chenla period. Spread over a large area of semi-cleared jungle, the ruins are all that remain of the ancient capital of Isanapura. There are three main complexes here – Preah Sambor (North Group), Preah Tor (Central Group), and Preah Yeay Poun (South Group). The sun-dappled, rectangular- shaped Lion Temple, guarded by a lion at its entrance, is one of the highlights of these ruins.
Unique to Sambor Prei Kuk are its many octagon-shaped prasats (towers). Despite being choked by the roots of strangler fig trees, some of these towers are in excel- lent conditions with lintels, columns, and pilasters dis- playing intricate carvings. Large bas-reliefs rendered in brick also represent some of the earliest attempts in this style – amazingly, Sambor Prei Kuk was pioneering new forms of artistry 150 years before the mighty Angkor. Visitors can hire trained guides, who can be found near the café, to show them around the ruins for a fee, while school children will try and tag along to practice their English. A cursory walk through the ruins will take about an hour. Given the low volume of foot traffic, and the welcome shade provided by the forest, these are rewarding and atmospheric ruins to visit, and can easily be covered in a day trip from Siem Reap.