Sambor Prie Kuk Temple Tour ( HIGHLY RECOMMENDED WITH LESS TOURIST)
Cambodia's most impressive group of pre-Angkorian monuments, Sambor Prei Kuk encompasses more than 100 mainly brick temples huddled through the forest, among them some of the oldest structures in the country. Originally called Isanapura, it served as the capital of Upper Chenla during the reign of the early 7th-century King Isanavarman and continued to serve as an important learning center during the Angkorian era.
The main temple area consists of three complexes, each enclosed by the remains of two concentric walls. Their basic layout – a central tower surrounded by shrines, ponds and gates – may have served as an inspiration for the architects of Angkor five centuries later. Many of the original statues are now in the National Museum in Phnom Penh.
In the early 1970s, Sambor Prei Kuk was bombed by US aircraft in support of the Lon Nol government’s doomed fight against the Khmer Rouge. Some of the craters, ominously close to the temples, can still be seen. The area’s last land mines were cleared in 2008.
Sambor Prei Kuk today has a serene and soothing atmosphere, with the sandy trails between temples looping through
shady forest, making for a pleasant stroll. It's well worth hiring a guide from the local community to show you around (half/full day US$6/10). Guides hang out at the parking area, next to the main ruins complex.
By the ticket office near the bridge, about 500m before the parking area, is a giant handicrafts market with kramas, baskets and other products made by local villagers.