Long one of the most inaccessible of the Angkor-era temples, Koh Ker could easily be described Cambodia’s forgotten capital. Tucked away in the forests of Preah Vihear province in the north of the country, Koh Ker was briefly the Khmer capital during the reign of Jayavarman IV (928-942 CE), who moved here from Angkor after seizing the throne from a rival
The captial was moved back to Angkor in 944 by his son Harshavarman I, who was his successor. Also known as Chok Gargyar, meaning Island of Glory, the Koh Ker area is home to well over 100 temples, with 30 major structures. More ruins are constantly being discovered in the jungles of the area, however there are still a lot of land mines in the ground that have yet to be cleared.
Koh Ker is not the easiest site to get to. There are no towns in the area, no electricity, plenty of land mines and only one small village and a handful of open air food stands. The biggest bit of development was the opening of a toilet block in January 2007. Realistically, this location needs to be done as a long day trip from Siem Reap. It takes anywhere from 2 to 4 hours to get to Koh Ker from Siem Reap, depending on the state of the road.
The principal structure at Koh Ker is Prasat Thom, a 35m high sandstone pyramid with seven levels. The top of the pyramid rewards with spectacular views of Mt Kulen to the south and the Dangrek mountains along the Thai border to the north.
The first ruin that one comes to when approaching from Siem Reap is Prasat Pram. Named for its five towers, the site is very overgrown, with roots strangling the towers.
The second largest structure in the area is Prasat Krahom, the red temple. Prasat Krahom is reached by a naga-flanked causeway and at one time was known for its carved lions, none of which remain today.
Prasat Leung is the location of one of the largest and best preserved Siva lingas to be found in Cambodia.
The Prasat Neang Khmau, unlike the other structure, is a temple features black wall.