Sambor Prei Kuk is located in Kampong Thom Province, these 7th century temple ruins are the remains of Isanapura, the pre-Angkorian capital city of the Chenla Kingdom. King Isanavarman I is credited with building the city when the Chenla Kingdom was at its zenith, more than 150 years before Angkor.
The ruins at Sambor Prei Kuk are groups of striking brick prasats, in varying states of decay. The three main complexes are: Preah Sambor (North Group), Preah Tor (Central Group), and Preah Yeay Poun (South Group). Each is walled, and each contains a number of prasats. The carvings on some on the lintels, columns and pillars of the prasats are in relatively good shape, and are very good examples of pre-Angkorian art.
The brick prasats and compound walls are ornamented with large bas-reliefs, and demonstrate an early application of this Khmer art form. Another unusual construction technique are the octagon shaped prasats. But perhaps the most photographed is Prasat Chrey, a small prasat that is almost completely overgrown by a large tree.
For those interested in Khmer history and art, and for the serious temple explorer, this pre-Angkorian complex is an important place to visit. It can be reached as a day trip from Siem Reap or Phnom Penh, or can be explored as an overnight stop at Kampong Thom. The dirt road from Kampong Thom is in fair condition.
Sambor Prei Kuk
Location: about 120km southeast of Siem Reap, and about 35km from Kampong Thom
Construction period: 7th century
Built by: Isanavarman I
Photography: as most of the temples face east, morning hours offer the best light