Prasat Sambour Prei Kuk
Updated: May 4, 2020
On Monday we had our third social day. This week team Tang Krasang came to Prasat Sambour to visit the Prei Kuk temple site which is only a 15-minute bike ride away from our houses. We are so lucky to have this place within our community. It is a UNESCO world heritage site, 1 of only 3 in Cambodia, Angkor is also a world heritage site. Prei Kuk was built in the 7th century and therefore is at least 500 years older than Angkor Wat. There are over 100 temples within the forest on either side of the road that runs through it. We saw about 10 of them. One was surrounded by tree roots and was sooo mysterious, it was beaut and felt like you were in some sort of magical setting like Narnia or somewhere. The temples in general were really interesting to look at, made of bricks with trees and plants growing in and out of them.
Having been lucky enough to go to Angkor whilst I’ve been in Cambodia to now see these temples too is amazing. I have to say that despite their heritage and history, it is the most peaceful place. We saw only a handful of other tourists while we were there despite it being very popular and one of the main attractions in the province. When compared with Angkor it is wonderfully quiet and you could spend hours just wandering down the sandy paths and getting lost in the forest. The shade of the trees means you don’t feel the heat as much as you do at Angkor which is definitely a good thing.
During the Vietnam war, the US ordered bombings of areas of Cambodia to deter North Vietnamese influence and the growing Khmer Rouge. Prei Kuk was hit with massive craters being left near the temples which can still be seen today. There were also many land mines around the temple site left by the Khmer Rouge which were only fully cleared by 2008. We have to be very careful in rural Cambodia regarding hidden landmines, and it’s one of the reasons why we aren’t allowed unauthorised trips outside of community so we are very lucky that we have this safe haven to explore during our time here. Makes community feel bigger than it is as it is quite easy to get cabin fever here when compared with the freedom I have back home.
We ate lunch at one of the restaurants on site. We had rice (obviously), roast chicken, omelette, fish soup and fried vegetables and it was delicious. The roast chicken was particularly amazing compared to other chicken I have eaten here and the veg was delish. I had about 4 plates to fill up for the day!! This cost just under $4 so was a lot more expensive than a normal lunch here but was definitely worth it. I’d be persuaded to go and eat there for a normal meal to be honest, splash out a bit because it tasted so good.
The only drawback to the entire thing is the cost. For tourists/foreigners it is $10. For tourists this isn’t too bad, especially when you compare Angkor which is $37 for a day ticket. But for volunteers this is a massive chunk of our budget, and not everyone was willing to pay so some volunteers just stayed by the restaurants in the hammocks.
I was in two minds as to whether to pay or not, having seen a fair few temples already and trying to be careful with my money but in the end I decided I may never come back here and it is an important part of the community who have welcomed us to live in so I paid the $10. And I am so glad I did (although I have now spent a total of $50 visiting various temples/pagoda’s here). I am hoping, as we are volunteering here, they will allow us to use this ticket again to enter the site without paying again because I would love to go back and explore more. I felt so relaxed there and it’s something different to do.
This social really made me think about the experience I am having. When else will I cycle literally everywhere, past rice fields, water buffalo with storks on their backs, dogs, cats and cows wandering in front of you with palm trees, banana trees, mango trees and papaya trees everywhere you look. I’m actually enjoying riding my bike everywhere. We are extremely lucky to be living in such a beautiful community. It is rice harvest at the moment so there are sheets of rice being laid out and dried in the sun ready to be sold. It’s pretty surreal. And this is what I think about whenever I get a pang of missing the UK!