The modern day Cambodia being at the heart of what used to be the Khmer Empire at the turn of the last millennium, so it is filled with historical treasures and buildings from the era. Apart from the Angkor Wat, there are a number of sites from the period which even predate the world famous temple complex. One of the most spectacular of such examples is the Preah Vihear Temple, located in the northern frontier of Cambodia in the Preah Vihear province. The Preah Vihear province borders the Siem Reap province, so if you are visiting the Angkor Wat, you can visit the temple easily.
The Preah Vihear has its origins even older than that of the Angkor Wat, as the Khmer emperor Yasovarman I had started its construction as early as the 9th century. However, most parts of the temple were built by the emperors Suryavarman I and Suryavarman II, the latter of which built the Angkor Wat as well. Just like many other temples in the country, it is built on the top of a 525-meter high cliff called Pey Tadi in the Dangrek Mountains within the vicinities of the Khao Phra Wihan National Park which separates Thailand and Cambodia.
The temple was built for the Hindu deity Shiva. When you reach the temple from the northern side, you are welcomed by the site of a flight of stone stairs, which are traditional for any Hindu temple, but this one is no less than 78 meters long. The most noticeable features of the temple are its Gopuras or the recognizable entrance pavilions, which have become the symbols of the temple. The temple is built in four layers with four courtyards. The temple site is really spectacular and it truly shows that for those who are fascinated by its mystique that the Khmer culture has a lot more to offer than just Angkor Wat.
The architecture of the temple is exquisite and the temple is really a treat for those who want to study the local cultural history. Among the most important attractions of the temple are the Palace on the third level of the temple and the Nagaraj courtyard. The Nagaraj courtyard features spectacular imagery of snakes, due to their association with the Hindu god Shiva, and the sculpting art displayed here would take you by surprise. The Palace used to be the place where the emperor used to stay when he visited the temple. The architecture and the grandeur of the temple make it a really worth visiting site.
The Preah Vihear Temple has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008. It is interesting to note that the temple and the adjoining areas were the source of a bitter dispute between Cambodia and Thailand over its possession. However, in 1962, the International Court of Justice awarded the ownership to Cambodia. But as equally stunning as the temple is its very location itself. But anyway, the temple is accessible from the Thai border as well. The view from the temple of the surrounding landscape of the Cambodian plane is something that you will never be able to forget for as long as you live.