Khmer temples in Isaan, Northeast Thailand
The Khmer temples in Isaan, in the unspoilt northeast of Thailand, have been on my 'to see' list since visiting Preah Vihear became a safe proposition again a couple of years ago. Although Preah Vihear officially belongs to Cambodia, the easiest way to gain access to the breathtaking cliff-top temple is from the Thai side of the border. Link that into visiting the restored Khmer sanctuaries at Phimai, Phnom Rung, Phnom Wan and Muang Tam amongst others and you have a ready-made itinerary in an area of Thailand that sees relatively few visitors. That was my plan for the latter part of 2002. Accompanying me to South East Asia for the first time would be my wife, combining a week in Isaan (which she terms as 'roughing it') with a couple of days in Bangkok and then a few days of luxury at the famous Railway Hotel in Hua Hin (now known as the Sofitel Central Hua Hin and used in 1983 as Hotel Le Phnom for the filming of The Killing Fields). Unfortunately, my wife had second thoughts at the last minute and we ended up going to Cyprus. So my trip to Isaan is still on the 'to see' list.
To wet my tastebuds for the pleasures that lie ahead when I finally do get to Isaan, I've posted below a few photographs that friends of mine have sent of some of the key temples that await me. These can be viewed in conjunction with my webpage devoted to Preah Vihear if you too are contemplating a trip to Isaan. The Phimai photos below are courtesy of Kazuo Iwase and the others are mostly from Lisa Cox. The most comprehensive guidebook is 'Khmer temples in Thailand & Laos' by Michael Freeman; a handy-sized guide, first published in 1996 by River Books (see below). An expert on Southeast Asia, Freeman's sister publication is the gorgeously photographed 'Palaces of the Gods : Khmer Art and Architecture in Thailand.'
Ta Muen Thom & Ta Muen
Michael Freeman's 'A Guide to Khmer Temples in Thailand & Laos'
Khmer temples in Thailand & Laos is the first in a series of cultural guides to the major sites of Southeast Asia. Illustrated with detailed photographs and walk-through plans of every significant temple, it is a comprehensive and practical companion to the magnificent sites of the former upland Khmer empire. Many of these, after excavation and restoration, have only recently become open to the public (River Books, Bangkok). Michael Freeman's photographs inside and outside Cambodia are simply stunning. If you get the chance to own own of his many books, grab it with both hands.
click on any photo to see a larger version.
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