Disputed Preah Vihear Temple Cambodia

PreahVihearTemple1I was in Cambodia many years ago when there were riots in the capital Phnom Penh following comments made by a well-known Thai soap opera actress who suggested that the temples of Angkor Wat really belonged to Thailand. Those comments relate to the Khmer Empire, which dates back many hundreds of years, which both Cambodia and Thailand claim as part of their heritage.

Disputes between the two countries, particularly with regards to heritage and border matters, are not uncommon, and sometimes those disputes result in battles along the border regions.

The Preah Vihear is a magnificent temple which predates the temples at Angkor Wat by about one hundred years. It has a brilliant location atop a 525-metre (1,722 ft) hill which straddles the border between the two countries. Claims of ownership of Preah Vihear have resulted in intense fighting over the years, but the International Court of Justice has stepped in and awarded the temple to Cambodia, a decision that has infuriated Thailand. You can visit the temple from Cambodia, but you should always get the latest information on any tensions which could impact on your safety before planning a visit.

The temple was built in the 9th century as a dedication to the Hindu god Shiva and is considered to be a magnificent example of Khmer architecture.

Fortunately the temple is well preserved, but you can only approach from the bottom of the hill upon which it sits, which necessitates climbing the 162 steps up to the temple. The climb is well worth it, though, particularly because of the great views that you get across the plains from the top of the hill.

The temple is long and narrow and is meant to represent the home of the Hindu gods. It is easy to negotiate your way through the temple because pavements run through the length of the temple, giving excellent access to the whole site. There is a variety of architecture within the temple as it was built over a period of time under the guidance of different rulers. The temple is comprised of various pavilions and courtyards within the complex, and there is evidence of water cisterns which delivered fresh water to the inhabitants.

Preah Vihear Temple is located about 210 kilometres by road from Siem Reap, the closest town to the Angkor Wat temples, and you can arrange transport and tours from Siem Reap. There is basic accommodation near the bottom of the hill upon which the temple is perched but due to the sometimes fragile tensions between Cambodia and Thailand not much effort has been put into providing good tourist infrastructure near the temple.

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