Our First Visit to Preah Vihear Temple
07 January 2012, Preah Vihear: On that day, it was our first time, that my mother in-law, 90; my father, 78, my brother and sisters in-law, and other relatives had the chance to visit this very famous temple. It was on our trip agenda since many years.
This temple is located on the top of Dangrek Mountain, which is about 600 meter, above sea level. It is a historical and UNESCO World Heritage Site (since 2008), managed by Preah Vihear Authority. It is also well known to the world through (arms and legal) conflicts between Thailand and Cambodia since 1955. The International Court of Justice in The Hague announced the verdict on June 15, 1962, in favor of Cambodia. The most recent conflict was started in 2008 and lasts till mid of 2011. The dispute is not over yet, but the situation becomes better with the recent July election in Thailand.
The road connecting Siem Reap provincial town to Preah Vihear temple was recently rehabilitated, with very good quality. It is still quiet along the way, not so many traffics. People live from place to place and in some districts it is crowded. From Siem Reap to Anlong Veng, the distance is about 140 Km. From Anlong Veng to Preah Vihear temple is about 111 Km, passing Tropaing Prasath, Sra-Aem etc. From the bottom to reach the top, we do need to ride the car or motorbike offered by the Preah Vihear Authority. It costs 10,000 Riel (U$ 2.5) for one person for one motorbike; one pick-up truck costs 100,000 Riel (U$ 25) for up to ten persons. Due to safety reason and mountainous road conditions, I would highly recommend that visitors should make use of this service.
The old road was constructed by the Engineering Regiment of the Arms Forces is being enlarged and re-constructed. We do not need to pay entry fee, but just need to register and getting tickets for statistics purpose. We left Siem Reap at 7:45am and arrived at 11:15am without stop. The travel distance is about the same between Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville. Before, it would take five days to travel the same distance, with dirty, muddy, bumpy roads and landmine dangers. We went there by using two cars and we did need two pick-up trucks to reach the top. We spent around three hours visiting the temple and came down to have lunch at 2pm. We have made some pictures and I got opportunity to talk to soldiers and policemen on duty. I am very disappointed to learn about the poor living conditions and poor supply for our heroes here, who risk their life protecting our most valued temple at these remote border area.
My first impression of the temple:
- Preah Vihear is really a Jewel, very beautiful and a charming temple;
- There are still traces of the war, bunkers. We were accompanied by one soldier and one policeman, who explain us in detail on what happened during the fighting;
- We met many poor soldiers during the visit. They stay in front of the bunkers. They expected that we gave/donate them some money or cigarettes. They will be replaced by tourists polices in the future, if the peace deal with Thailand could be reached;
- Few hundreds of people have visited the temple on that day, mostly Cambodians with some western tourists;
- We will return again soon, so that we will have more quiet time for reflection, especially in the morning hours to catch the best scenery.
On the way back, we visited Anlong Veng and Ta Mok’s house on the Dangrek Mountain, 16 Km from Anlong Veng district town. It is important to note that Anlong Veng was one of the strongholds of the Khmer Rouge, home to many KR leaders including Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, Son Sen etc. The district town itself has been developed a lot, in comparison to what I have seen during my last visit few years ago. At 5pm, we returned to Siem Reap and arrived at 7:45. It means, we were exactly 12 hours on the way. It was exhausted for us all, but we were happy to visit this wonderful temple.
My mother in-law, though she could not see that far, was very impressed about the temple. She referred to it as “a very beautiful temple that is why they (other country) want to have it as well”. I think she is right. She managed on her own with some help to reach the top and back. We are very happy to bring her and my father to visit this Site.