Visit Sambor Prei Kuk, the UNESCO World Heritage Site at the heart of the local community.
If the Angkor Wat in Siem Reap seemed mystifying to you, you need to visit the Sambor Prei Kuk Temples. The pre-Angkorian 7th-century architectural complex is the UNESCO World Heritage site, set in a cool peaceful leafy setting. The beautiful 1,200-year-old temples combine with nature to create an environment that showcases the best of both worlds across the site. While, the local Isanborei Homestay offers you an opportunity to learn about local culture and traditions, just stone’s throw away from over 100 temples that you can visit without the hustle-bustle of crowds.
Isanborei Homestay at Sambor Prei Kuk UNESCO World Heritage site is a unique Cambodian community-based tourism project. It consists of 7 Khmer villages in the close proximity of the site, that work together to preserve the historic site and create employment opportunities for local people living within the historic site. The community is actively involved at the preservation of the heritage site, however, at the moment the community does not directly or indirectly benefit from the entrance fees paid by visiting tourists, as the funds go directly to the national government. The members of the community have high levels of spoken English due to extensive language and tour-guiding training programme.
Meet Teng, he is a member of the community management committee for the project. He is 26 years old, married with 2 children. He speaks brilliant English and is very passionate about his community: “ Before, many years ago, nobody knows about our community and the temples…. Only a few foreign archaeologists would come and study the temples. However, over the last 2-3 years more people hear about the temples. And more people come to see them, mostly local people but international tourists are coming too. We hope that our project will help the tourist not only to experience the temples but also show them Cambodian hospitality and teaches them about our culture.”
Sambor Prei Kuk (SPK) is one of the main tourist attractions in Kampong Thom. The Sambor Prei Kuk Conservation and Development Community has 600 members in 7 villages. The untouched and overgrown temples of Sambor Prei Kuk are a unique pre-Angkorian attraction located only 30 km north of the provincial town of Kampong Thom. The main attractions of Sambor Prei Kuk are the temple ruins of Isanapura (Isanborei), located in an area of 1 x 5 kilometers. The temples that were added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List in 1992, attract an estimated 20,000 Cambodian and 5,000 international tourists each year. The key attraction of this location is the Sambor Prei Kuk archaeological site. Today, you can see 52 big and small temples and related structures in Sambor Prei Kuk, all in fairly good condition. A similar number are fallen and buried in the ground. Sambor Prei Kuk sanctuaries were built of brick and limestone with decorations of bas-relief on the walls. The foundations of the temples were mostly made of laterite, with gateways, lintels, false doors, diamond columns and the sculptures mostly being made of sandstone.
The homestays in the villages are of high standards with European style toilets and good bathroom facilities. Currently, there are 9 homestays, some of them offering small private rooms while others provide larger facilities suitable for small groups or several families travelling together.
The houses have good quality facilities, matrasses, mosquito nets and the house where we stay even had a Wifi connection. The location is rural, but not totally remote, so phone coverage is very good.
- The villages are quiet and offer a nice place to relax after your trip to see the temples.
- 1-3 bedrooms in a traditional house with bed, mattress, mosquito net, cotton sheets, blankets, pillows
- Western or local style toilet and shower
- Electricity 24/7
- Provides drinking water
- Parking: car, van, motorcycle
The mystic ruins of Sambor Prei Kuk are the main attraction in all of the Sambor region, but that’s not all.
As tourists, there’s much more to explore and do in this region, provided you’re looking for something completely offbeat. The rural countryside of the Sambor Prei Kuk is replete with new experiences and adventures. You can go cycling or take a walk through the village area. You may bump into locals who will give you wide-toothed smile and say Sabai Sabai (happy, happy) to say “hello”.
You can stay with some of the local families at Isanborei and learn how to cook authentic Cambodian food. The rice and the spice strewed with local vegetables and herbs just make it so palatable, it’s hard to believe there are such few ingredients in the food. You may even ask the locals to teach you some of the regional handicrafts and try your hand at weaving baskets or if you’re nimble enough, try stone carving and silk weaving. Evenings are reserved for fun, so don’t hesitate to partake in the traditional Cambodian dance.
During the day, you can rent a bike and hire one of the twelve, well trained, tourist guides, who will take you to the Heritage Site. They are extremely well versed in English and you will have a great time interacting with them. The heritage site has an entry fee of $10. Unfortunately, these can’t be pre-booked. So you’ll have to go there and get your tickets. If you’re living in one of the Isanborei homestays and have hired a guide, getting around gets super easy, so do consider it.
This historic site and homestay are in Kampong Thom province. This site is easily accessible, Kampong Thom town is on the main road from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, being serviced by a large number of bus companies and VIP minibuses.
The easiest way: Ask the driver to drop you off in front of the Arunras Hotel and Restaurant. In front of the hotel, there are several motodups and tuk tuks waiting to take you to the community and the ruins of Sambor Prei Kuk. The project can also pre-book your transport for you, if you let them know a day before. Motodop $10 per person, Tuktuk $15
The cheapest way: Ask the driver to drop you off at the crossroads of the main Road 6 and the road to Preah Vihear (which has a turn off for Sambor Prei Kuk after approximately 2-3 km). Here you will be closer to the site = so, it will be cheaper to visit the historic site and the temples. However, there is no official transport system here, you just need to negotiate your best deal – when were visited the site we were able to get a motodop here for $5.
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