- Carlo Goldoni
Koh Ker Temple in Cambodia is a huge temple complex that served as the capital of the Khmer empire for a brief period between 928AD and 944AD. It is located 118kilometers northeast of Siem Reap and as it is the case with other remote temples, Koh Ker has not been restored and is one of the least studied temple-complex. Saying that, the area has 42 major temples and it once contained some of the most extraordinary sculptures ever produced in the Khmer art. Two of them are kept in the National Museum at Phnom Penh, the huge Garuda bird at the entrance hall and the monkeys Sugriva and Bali werstling protraying an episode of the Ramayana. Koh Ker highlights include the predominant Preasat Thom monument and the stunning view from its summit, and the Shiva lingas in Prasat thneng and Prasat Leung.
A new toll road links Siem Reap to Koh Ker and thanks to the de-mining of the area this once inacessible temple is now open to the public. To reach the site from the town center take the N6 road all the way to Dam Dek (about three hours), turn left and follow the road for 31 kilometers until you reach Beng Mealea and then turn left again following the road for 54 kilometers until you arrive to Koh Ker. Allow youself about three hours to explore the temple complex. It is best to visit Koh Ker early in the morning specially if starting from Siem Reap as the journey to Koh Ker takes about three hours and a half.
The history of Koh Ker temple is linked to the obscure figure of King Jayavarman IV, about whom scholars cannot agree whether he was an usurper or not. About five years before he became king, Jayavarman IV left the then capital of Angkor Yashodharapura (which was under the reing of his uncle) and he established at Koh Ker. By moving the capital to this distant area King Jayavarman IV divided the empire and to do so he must have have held considerable power as a military leader. In 1880 Louis Delapore visited the site whilst undertaking a broader study of the Angkor temples. There has not been restoration works at the temple and archaeological surveys were undertaken by cambodia teams in the 1960s but these studies were destroyed during the Khmer Rouge regime.
"Due to the lack of restoration works and to the lack of archaeological studies, this temple remains the most enigmatic and less known of the Cambodian temples. For that very reason, it is here that the most adventurous travellers will feel a bit of what the explorers of the 19th century felt when they encountered the temples of Angkor ".
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