Preah Ko & Bakong

The Khmer empire was solidified at 802 A.D. The first king, Jayavaraman II founded his capital, Hariharalaya, south east of current Siem Reap 300 years before the massive building spree of Angkor to the north of Siem Reap. His nephew, Indravarman I, built Prea Ko in 879, and a bit later, the larger temple of Bakong which was started in 826 initially and finished in 881. These are significantly earlier temples dedicated to Shiva, and use a bit of a different construction method, featuring much smaller stones cut to bricks. Yet, they still have the same types of features as the later temples, like the 5 Hindu Mountains being represented.

The Arrival

Lucky, my driver and my friend, was also with me on this my third trip to Cambodia in 2017. He drove me through the eastern part of Siem Reap, which is much more industrial and regular real life Cambodia than touristy. Outside of the city a few miles, he pulled off to the south of highway 6, into the temples of Prea Ko, Bakong, and Prei Monti. There is also a small housing village around the temples, along with a much less trafficked but very interesting series of temples.

The foliage is cut back a lot, but this area was home to what was probably was a larger complex 1,000 years ago. The name Preah Ko means Sacred Bull and there are animal statues here, a bit more than later temples.
Sacred and important to the symbolism of the temple back in the day apparentlyRestoration in progress, kindaLocal home of the gods
In between the temple worship pointsShiva, the God of the Day vs. Vishnu later in the Khmer empireCut back, but what was there before, is long gone now
Staircase to a temple, surprisingly intactI almost wish I knew how to read ancient Sanskrit, but then I would never leave any temple and have to spend months here

Bakong

Back into the Tuk Tuk and farther into the local area, we came to Bakong, which is a pyramid style temple. It features the oldest discovered use of the corbelling, or a stacking arch, in the Khmer empire. Now an active Bhuddist temple, it has Nagas and Lions, important Hindu mythos creatures, around it. It's pretty tall, and has a lot of carvings, plus nice views of the surrounding forests.

Since the temple is active, there are offerings and food stuffs available for prayer or sustenance at this location.
Lions guarding the entranceImposing on the sky from a distance
This shot, while looking like a lot of it, is only a tiny corner.  Would make a good postcard thoughConverted to Bhuddism like all the rest of the temples
Naturally filling and still filled MoatHome of the Monks who take care of this spotOriginal next to restored carvings that used to cover this temple
Nice view to show you how small you are

Summary

Older and less trafficked than the Angkor Park. Very old, even compared to the rest of the area. I was super pleased as Lucky pulled it out for a surprise to make this trip different than my 2016 one. It's close to Siem Reap, and easily accessed. The third temple, Prei Monti is barely even dirt piles. This is what remains of the first capital of the Khmer Empire.

It takes 3 days to do a decent job in the Angkor Park. If you have another day, make time for this one, and then go to Angkor Artisans in Siem Reap in the afternoon.



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