- Carlo Goldoni
Preah Vihear in Cambodia is a very impressive hindu temple situated on top of a 547 meter high hill in the Dangrek Mountain range in the northeast of Cambodia, near the Thai border. With one of the most spectacular settings in Cambodia, this temple was built over a period of 300 years by different Kings and unlike other Angkor temples it is built on a north south axis (most angkor temples are built facing the sun). Preah Vihear highlights include its unique architectural style, adapted to the natural setting of the monument, and the stunning views over Cambodia and Thailand from the top of the hill.
Preah Vihear is quite a remote temple located 100 kilometers from Siem Reap, and travel from the town is complicated. The temple can only be reached by an all terrain car (5 hours and 22 minutes journey) or a helicopter. Alternatively the temple can also be accessed from Sisaket province in Thailand on a smooth road. Cambodia allows day trip access on visa-free basis from here but the Thai government charges a fee to enter the natural park on top of the entrance fee to the temple. The best time to visit Preah Vihear is early in the morning to avoid the crowds as many of the large tour groups arrive later in the morning.
Preah Vihear was built over a period of 300 years by various kings. The construction began in the early 9th century during the reign of King Yasovarman I, but most of the temple was built by King Suryavarman I in the 10th century and King Suryavarman II in the 12th century. It was dedicated to the God Shiva in his manifestations as the mountain gods Sikharesvara and Bharesvara. In 2008 Preah Vihear was listed in the World Heritage site list by the UNESCO.
Preah Vihear has been the center of a dispute between Thailand and Cambodia for years. In 1907 France and Siam allocated the temple to Thai territory, but a map drawn by the French officers show the temple placed on the Cambodian side. In 1954, after the French troops withdrew from Cambodia, Thailand occupied the temple and the political quarrell between both countries started. In 1962 the International Court of Justice in the Hague settled the case and allocatedt the temple to Cambodia and ruling that Thailand must return any antiquities that it had removed from the temple. However, access to the temple was only from Thailand until recently, and during the three decades of civil war in Cambodia, the it was open only sporadically. The conflict continues nowadays, and it broadened in 2008 to include the Ta Moan Thom complex. Thai-Khmer political relantionships remain tense with regards to this issue.
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