NAKHON RATCHASIMA (260 kilometers and 3 ½ hours north of Bangkok by bus) is the gateway to Northeast and by some measures Thailand’s second largest city. Also known as Khorat, it is a busy commercial and transportation hub and has some fine shrines and a museum with an excellent collection of Khmer art objects. The entire region was occupied by the Khmer in the pre-Thai era. Today is known for its brave women, fine silk material, tasty Khorat Rice noodles, the Phimai historical site, and Dan Kwian pottery. Tourism though came late the city it didn’t get its first international hotel until 1992. During the Vietnam War, a large American air base was located here and some former American GIs still live here with their Thai families.

Nakhon Ratchasima Province is the largest province in Thailand (20,500 square kilometers). Most of it inhabitants are engaged in agricultural activities, mainly growing rice, sugar cane, sesame, and fruit. There are more than 100 savings and agricultural cooperatives in the province, 35 irrigation projects, and 7,122 industrial factories. Most of the factories are rice mills, tapioca product manufacturers, and industrial factories. Some of the best silk in Thailand is made in Pak Thong Chai, 30 kilometers southwest of Khorat on Route 304. Khao Yai National Park is located in Nakhon Rathchasima Province.

Tourist Office and Website: Tourism Authority of Thailand , Nakhon Ratchasima office, 2102-2104 Mitraphap Road , Tambon Nai Mueang, Amphoe Mueang,Nakhon Ratchasima 30000, Tel. +66 4421 3030 , +66 4421 3666, Fax. +66 4421 3667, E-mail Address: Accommodation: As Northeastern Thailand’s main transportation hub and economic center, Nakhon Ratchasima has a wide variety of accommodation options for visitors on any budget. Website:;

Getting to Nakhon Ratchasima

Nakhon Ratchasima is the main transportation hub and economic center for Northeastern Thailand and thus can be easily reached by private car, plane, public bus and train. By Air: There are no regular commercial air services to Khorat. By Train: An express train bound for Ubon Ratchathani departs Bangkok's Hua Lumphong Station at 9pm and arrives in Khorat at 2.03am Rapid trains on the Ubon railway depart at 6.50am, 6.45pm and 10.45pm, arriving in Khorat at 11.48am and 11.51pm and 4.07am respectively. There are also two ordinary trains (3rd class only) that depart Bangkok at 3.25 and 11.25pm, arriving in Khorat about 5 1/2 to 6 hours after departure.

By Car: Route 1) Take Highway No. 1 (Phahonyothin Road) from Bangkok to Saraburi and then take Highway No. 2 (Mittraphap Highway) from Saraburi to Nakhon Ratchasima. The total distance is 259 kilometers. Route 2) Take Highway No. 304 from Bangkok and proceed past Min Buri, Chachoengsao, Phanom Sarakham, Kabin Buri, and Pak Thong Chai to Nakhon Ratchasima. The total distance is 273 kilometers. Route 3) Take the Bangkok-Rangsit-Nakhon Nayok route and then take Highway No. 33 to Kabin Buri and finally Highway No. 304 past Wang Nam Khiao and Pak Thong Chai to Nakhon Ratchasima.

By Bus: The Transport Co., Ltd. (known as Bo Kho So) has both air-conditioned and regular buses departing from Bangkok’s Northern Bus Terminal (Mo Chit 2) daily. Air-conditioned buses depart from Bangkok every 10 minutes all day; traveling time is 3.20 hours and the fare is around 160 baht. Non air-conditioned buses depart from Bangkok every hour from 5am to 8pm; traveling time is 4.30 hours, and the fare is around 90 baht. Buses arrive at Korat's bus terminal on Mittraphap Highway. For information, call 0 2936 2852-66. Private companies that offer bus services to Khorat include Ratchasima Tour Co., (Khorat: 0 4424 5443, Bangkok: 0 2936 1615) and Air Khorat Co. (Khorat: 0 4425 2999, Bangkok: 0 2936 2252.

Buses running to other provinces leave from Bus Terminal 2 in Khorat. There are services to the northeastern provinces of Chaiyaphum, Khon Kaen, Udon Thani, Nong Khai, Nakhon Phanom, Sakon Nakhon, Kalasin, Ubon Ratchathani, Buri Ram (the old route goes past Nang Rong and the new one past Huai Thalaeng), and Surin (past Nang Rong-Ban Tako). In addition, there are buses to Chon Buri, Pattaya, Rayong, Chanthaburi, Lop Buri, Sing Buri, Nakhon Sawan, Chiang Mai, and Chiang Rai (up to Mae Sai). All depart from Bus Terminal 2 in Khorat.

Getting Around in Nakhon Ratchasima : Traveling within the province is easy, with many mini-buses and local buses operating in the city and in/around/to nearby areas. The fares are around 5 baht, including comfortable air-conditioned buses along Highway No. 2 (Mittraphap Road). A more convenient way to get around is to take a tuk-tuk or samlor in the city. Samlors around the city costs 20 baht; while tuk-tuks cost 40 baht to most places around town (30 baht for a short hop) and 50 to 60 baht for longer trips. The rate for motorbike taxis is within the same range (towards the lower end). Please note that the price must be agreed upon before a trip. If traveling to another district, it is possible to take either a bus or mini-bus at Bus Terminal 1 on Burin Road. Bus Terminal 2 only provides bus services to Amphoe Phimai and Dan Kwian-Chok Chai. For information, call Bus Terminal 1 on Burin Road, tel. 0 4424 2899 and 0 4426 8899 and Bus Terminal 2 on the Mitraparp-Khon Kaen Road, tel. 0 4425 6006-9 ext. 175, 176 (air-conditioned), 178 (regular).

Sights in and Around Nakhon Ratchasima

Prasat Phanom Wan (20 kilometers from Nakhon Ratchasima on the Nakhon Ratchasima-Khon Kaen road) is believed that it was built in the 15th Buddhist century (the A.D. 9th century) . Later during the 18th -19th Buddhist centuries, a stone building was built over it. From inscriptions found at the site, it is known that the sanctuary was by Hindus and later became a Buddhist site. Although most of it is in ruins, there is a clear form present, like the square main pagoda facing east and a tiered pagoda in front, as well as a path linking the two structures.To the southwest is a building of red sandstone called “Prang Noi.” Inside is a large stone Buddha image. A roofed sandstone walkway and a laterite wall go around the sanctuary. A gopura (a sanctuary doorway or porch) in the form of a tall tower is situated in all four directions. Around 230 meters east of the sanctuary are traces of a moat and an earth hill that was the site of another Khmer building called “Noen Oraphim.”

Location and Contact: Ban Makha, Tambon Pho, Amphoe Mueang, Nakhon Ratchasima, Tel. 0 4421 3030 , 0 4421 3666. Hours Open: Open everyday from 7.00am to 6:00pm. Getting There: Prasat Phanom Wan is in Ban Makha, Tambon Pho, around 15 kilometers from Nakhon Ratchasima on the Nakhon Ratchasima-Khon Kaen road. A sign on the right shows the road. Travel five kilometers more.

Khao Luk Chang (near Pak Chong village, three kilometers from Khao Yai National Park in Nakhon Ratchasima province) is famous for bats. It is possible to sit n the edge of a cliff and watch thousands of wrinkle-lipped bats stream out of a cave at night. Khao Luk Chang means Baby Elephant Mountain. The show, which starts around 5:45-6:00pm, lasts for roughly an hour and a half. The cave is about 3km from Khao Yai National Park and is actually quite difficult to find without the aid of GPS. Check this blog nakrian


PHIMAI (50 kilometers from Nakhon Rathchasima) features a small but beautiful 12th century Khmer Shrine also known as Phimai. Situated in a beautiful park and sometimes called the Angkor Wat of Thailand, Phimai shrine is the finest and largest example of Khmer architecture outside of Cambodia. Once linked by a paved road to Angkor Wat, the temple was restored by Bernard Groslier, a French archeologist, who also worked at Angkor.

Located at the end of processional path, Phimai shrine is an intricately carved temple that resembles the most impressive buildings at Angkor Wat. Set on top of a cruciform platform, it is a model of Mt. Meru, the five peaked home of the Hindu gods, and features detailed stone carving of Hindu subjects, including nagas (mythical multi-headed cobras that protect sacred places), representations of Hindu gods and scenes from the Hindu epics, the Ramayana. Only kings, Brahman priest and important nobles were allowed to the temple.

The tower wrote Oliver Bernier in the New York Times is "wholly original blend of the stepped towers of South India and the curved towers of North India. There are seven distinct platforms, each smaller than the one below...There are carvings everywhere—most alas, badly damaged. Still, the Shiva dancing inside an elephant skin on the east is clearly visible, and so is the Rama bound by a serpentine arrow on the south." Many of the engraving made on lintels, pediments and walls are related to the story of Ramayana and the beliefs of Brahman-Hindu. The pediment in the south, in the front of pagoda, is the picture of Shiva dancing 108 Thai classical dances. Inside the main pagoda, a pediment above the four entrance doors depicts the Buddha’s life.

The Phimai National Museum is an outdoor museum with a large collection of Dvaravati and Khmer artifacts, dating from the 6th through the 13th centuries. Among the most interesting items are a lifelike portrait of King Jayavaramna VII, representations of nagas and gods and many Khmer lintels in various styles. At Sai Ngarm, there are big banyan trees around the bank of the Moon River.

Chokchai Farm

Chokchai Farm (160 kilometers from Bangkok) is where visitors can enjoy a Thai-style a cowboy-themed adventure, feed ponies, watch cowboys in action and enjoy animal talent shows, plus a lot more activities. Set amid farms, forests and pastureland on a vast stretch of plains, Chokchai is geared mostly for Thai families. Many of the foreigners that check it out do so for the weird juxtaposition of cowboy and Thai culture. In addition to being a tourist attraction, Farm Chokchai is a working dairy farm, where visitors can learn about milking, making ice cream, animal feed plant, and several other activities.

According to a tourist description: Chokchai Farm is the place for the whole family who wants to see what the cowboy lifestyle looks like. Here tourists are allowed to milk cows and see how the milk is made ready to drink. You can also enjoy watching a demonstration or interactively participate in making ice cream. In addition to these activities, there are farm tours that take visitors of all ages to see the cowboy way of life. A pony farm and animal talent shows are there to provide an ultimate entertainment experience for our young audience. You will be dazzled by the cowboy shows that demonstrate tie-down roping and taming wild horses.

Eat a BBQ in a boutique hotel and spend the night in a convenient air-conditioned room. Then the whole family will certainly wake up to a new delightful day. A very nice and strongly recommended restaurant is the Chokchai Steak House, where delectable well-aged beef is offered for a large variety of dishes. Finish your meal with ice cream made from top quality fresh milk. It certainly makes a big hit among kids.”

Location and Contact: 169 Mu 2 Thanon Mittaphap, Amphoe Pak Chong, Nakhon Ratchasima 30130, Tel. 0 4432-8485. Ext. 116, 0 4432 8386, 0 4436 1770-4. Head Office tel. 0 2532 2846 ext. 135, 0 2523 9103. Hours Open: The farm opens on Saturdays, Sundays and Official holidays. Open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for a group visit of at least 30 persons. There are three to five rounds of tours, each taking approximately three hours. Admission: Getting There: Chokchai Farm is a couple of hours from Chiang Mai on Mittraphap Road. Website:;

Phra Phutthabat (30 miles from Nakhon Ratchasima) is a revered shrine located in a 1,200 acre religious park. A holy footprint is enshrined within a 135-foot-tall pagoda. Elsewhere in the park are caves and cliffs with prehistoric paintings.


SURIN (northeast of Bangkok and west of Nakhan Ratchasima) is a quiet rural town that comes to life in November when it host the annual Elephant Round Up (See Festivals). Known for its elephants, silk, Khmer ruins, sweet radishes and fragrant rice, Surin is a large province in the Mun River Basin of Thailand’s Northeastern Isan region. Although the exact history of the town itself is not well known, the people of the region have always been highly regarded for a particular skill: capturing and taming elephants. The Suay or Kuay (meaning simply “people”) migrated to the area perhaps thousands of years ago and established a reputation for their elephant handling prowess that is still celebrated to this day. Since 1960, around the time that elephants were being replaced by machines for most of their laboring jobs, the Surin Elephant Round-Up has been an annual event known both locally and internationally. During this celebration of both the elephants and the training skills of the Surin people, the gigantic pachyderms impress everyone with their cleverness and charm, an event that is the embodiment of the unique character of the province.

Those visiting Surin when the round up is not happening can enjoy Isaan culture, handicraft villages and a handful of Khmer ruins.Surin is the home of Prasat Si Khoraphum. Built in the 12th century in the Angkor Wat style, this sanctuary is composed of five brick prasats on a laterite platform. The tallest prasat is 32 meters high and has a profusion of beautiful carvings of guardians and scenes from Hindu mythology. It is believed that the temple was renovated during the Ayutthaya period by adding a superstructure. Inscriptions were also added to the door frame.

Tourist Office and Website: Tourism Authority of Thailand, Surin Office, Tourist Information Center of Surin, 355/3-6 Thessaban Road 1, Muangsurin District ,Surin Province 32000 (Temporary Office), Tel. +66 4451 4447-8 , +66 4451 8529, Fax. +66 4451 8530 E-mail Address: Accommodation: Surin hosts many visitors during the November elephant round up and thus there is a large selection of accommodation options so the rest of the year visitors have a wide selection to choose from. Hotels are generally full during the elephant round up so book ahead! Website:;

Getting to Surin: Surin is easily reached via private car, public bus, or train. Once there, it may be easier to get around with your own car, but there are standard forms of local transport available for visitors: i.e. songtaew, motorbike taxi, tuk tuk, and if you are lucky: elephant! By Train: Regular trains depart from Bangkok's Hua Lumphong Railway Station for Surin every day. Call 1690, 0 2223 7010-20or visit for more information. By Car: From Bangkok, take Highway No. 1 (Phahonyothin Road) to Saraburi and then Highway No. 2 (Mittraphap Road) to Nakhon Ratchasima; finally, use Highway No.226 to Surin via Buri Ram, a total distance of 457 kilometers. By Bus: Buses depart from Bangkok's Northern Bus Terminal (Mo Chit 2) to Surin every day. Contact Transport Co.Ltd at Tel: 0 2936 2852-66 or visit for more information

Buri Ram

Buri Ram (just north of Surin, 410 kilometers from Bangkok) is a city of sandstone sanctuaries, volcanoes, beautiful silk, and rich culture. Its name literally means “city of happiness” or “peaceful city.” Buri Ram Province is the location a number of archaeological discoveries, ancient ruins from the Dvaravati period (A.D. 6th-11th centuries), Khmer pottery kiln sites that date back to the 10th-13th centuries and Phanom Rung, one of Thailand's most stunning Khmer monuments. After the fall of Angkor the area was largely ignored until the late Ayutthaya period when it was a protectorate of Nakhon Ratchasima.

The town and province of Buri Ram are excellent places to experience authentic, rural Thai life and Isan culture. W hile the town itself has limited attractions and activities for visitors, the provincial countryside around has some places worth checking out namely Phanom Rung and other Khmer ruins.

Tourist Office and Website: 355/3-6 Thessaban Road 1, Muangsurin District ,Surin Province 32000 (Temporary Office), Tel. 0 4451 4447-8 , 0 4451 8529, 0 4451 8530. Accommodation: Buri Ram has a variety of accommodation options, including a number of budget hotels within walking distance of the train station. The most ideal place to stay if you are planning an early morning trip to Phanom Rung is the town of Nang Rong.

Getting to Buri Ram: Buri Ram can be reached via private car, bus, or train. By Train: There are rapid, express, and ordinary trains from Bangkok’s Hua Lumphong Station to Ubon Ratchathani, Surin, and Nakhon Ratchasima, many of which stop in Buri Ram. For more details, call Tel. 1690, 0 2220 4334, 0 2220 4444 or . By Bus: The Transport Company Limited provides daily ordinary and air-conditioned buses from Bangkok to Buri Ram. The buses leave from Bangkok’s Northern Bus Terminal (Mo Chit 2). For more information, call Tel. 0 2936 1880, 0 2936 0657, 0 2936 0667, and 0 2936 2852; Buri Ram Bus Terminal: Tel. 0 4461 2534; or

By Car: 1) From Bangkok, take Highway No. 1 (Phahonyothin Road) to Saraburi, then turn right onto Highway No. 2 (Mittraphap Road). Turn right onto Highway No. 24 (Chok Chai - Det Udom Road) passing through Amphoe Nong Ki and Amphoe Nang Rong before turning left onto Highway No. 218 to Buri Ram. The total distance is about 410 km. 2) From Nakhon Ratchasima (Khorat), take Highway No. 226 past Amphoe Chakkarat, Huai Thalaeng, and Lam Plai Mat. The total distance is 384 km.

Phanom Rung Historical Park

Phanom Rung Historical Park (Near Surin, 64 kilometers to the south of Buriram) is a Khmer sanctuary beautifully situated on small mountain with a superb view of the Thai-Cambodian border. Reached by a long climb and dating back to the early Angkor period in the early 12th century, it has an impressive 700-foot-long laterite avenue, lined with inscribed boundary stones, leading to naga-bordered Khmer-style platform adorned with superb stone carvings and friezes. Restoring the site took 17 years.

The buildings are larger and better preserved than those at Phimai. The galleries around the courtyard retain their curved stone roofs, and the sophisticated central pavilion has a multi-layered roof with exquisite inscriptions of Hindu and Buddhist images. Make sure to check out the fighting elephants and warriors on the north side, the mischievous Ramayanan monkeys on the west side, and a chariot-riding Krishna and goddess sitting on a lion on the south side. The lintel of Vishnu reclining on a serpent was stolen from the temple but was recently returned by an American museum following protests.

Phanom Rung is a grand and majestic Khmer site. Built in the cone of a 383-meter-high extinct volcano, it is originally a Hindu religious site and later became a Buddhist one. The first thing visitors see when they arrive at the site is the grand stairway from the foot of the hill up to the top. Most of the buildings of the sanctuary are made of laterite and sandstone, all with elaborate designs. The buildings are lined all the way to the main pagoda. This layout is according to Hindu beliefs about Mr. Meru and the layout of the heaven of the god Shiva.The main pagoda is a large one with a square base and facing east. The designs on the pagoda, columns, doorway, and lintels are exquisite, most telling a stories of Hindu gods. From these designs and the architecture, it is surmised that the pagoda, the stairway and the Naga (cobra-god) bridge were built during the 17th Buddhist century.

A long well-preserved promenade leads to the main gate. It begins on a slope 400 meters east of the main tower with three earthen terraces. Next comes a cruciform base that is believed to have supported a wooden pavilion. To the right here is White Elephant Hall. On the north side are two pools probably used for ritual ablutions. From here a 160-meter-long avenue paved with laterite and sandstone blocks and sided by pillars with lotus-bud tops leads to the first of three naga bridges. The 16-headed naga found here is identical to ones found at Angkor Wat. After the here you pass through a gallery into the main sanctuary which embraces a central prasat, with four entrances topped by towers that are smaller versions of the main prang. The sculpture and ornamentation on the prang and towers is superb.

Location and Contact: Contact: situated at Ban Ta Pek, Tambon Ta Pek., Tel. 0 4463 1746 or 044 - 782 715.
Hours Open: Open everyday from 6.00am to 6:00pm. Admission: Admission fee is 100 Baht. Alternatively, a 30-day package for visiting Phanom Rung Historical Park and Mueang Tam Stone Sanctury (Prasat Mueang Tam) is available for 150 baht.
Getting There: Getting to Phanom Rung by car is easy. The sanctuary is 64 kilometers to the south of Buriram town. There are 2 ways to get there. Visitors can proceed from Nang Rong to Prakhon Chai (Highway No. 24) and upon reaching Ban Tako, there is a 12-kilometer road to Phanom Rung. Alternatively, if visitors proceed from Prakhon Chai, there is a road from there to the sanctuary with a distance of 21 kilometers. This route passes a branch road into Muang Tam sanctuary. Visitors can rent air-conditioned vans in town. Visitors traveling by bus from Nakhon Ratchasima can take the Nakhon Ratchasima - Surin bus and get off at Ban Tako (124 kilometers from Nakhon Ratchasima). From Ban Tako, a motorcycle service is available to take visitors to the site (fare according to agreement). There is an accommodation near the site. By Bus:: From the Buri Ram Bus Terminal, take the Buri Ram to Chanthaburi bus and get off at Ban Tako. Catch a local Songthaew or motorcycle to Phanom Rung. Rates should be agreed in advance.

Ensemble of Phanom Rung, Muang Tam and Plai Bat Sanctuaries

Ensemble of Phanom Rung, Muang Tam and Plai Bat Sanctuaries in Burirum Province was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2019. According to a reported submitted to UNESCO: The Phanom Rung sanctuary or “Vnam Rung”, meaning “Big Mountain”, first appeared on stone inscriptions written in Pali and Sanskrit. (H.R.H. Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, 1978). The sanctuary complex, constructed of pink sandstone, is situated on top and close to the crater of Phanom Rung Mountain, an extinct volcano on the Phanom Dongraek Range. Rising to 200 metres above the surrounding plain, it dominates the landscape in every direction.[Source: Thailand National Committee on the World Heritage Convention]

The sanctuary of Phanom Rung, sacred tower of Plai Bat, and temple of Muang Tam are a unique complex of Angkorian structures that, with the associated barays and water control systems, reflect outstanding aspects of architecture, engineering, arts, skilled craftsmanship, stone building and brick construction, irrigation, universal astronomy, governance and theology, landscape, human settlement and land use.

Plai Bat sanctuaries no.1 and no.2 are located on top of the extinct volcano, Kao Plai Bat approximately two kilometres southwest of Muang Tam. The result of archaeological excavation and LIDAR scanning site survey technique revealed its architectural plan as being the same as Phanom Rung. The main sanctuaries were placed on an axis with oriented to the East. The sacred buildings were reached by means of a long processional walkway from and main Baray at the foot of the mountain.

Water was vital to the endurance of the civilization of Angkor, and at Phanom Rung and Plai Bat, uniquely the volcanic craters acted as reservoirs. The system at Phanom Rung involved seven ponds in descending order starting from the crater down to the northern hillside to fill the Mean Hear reservoir at the western piedmont of the mountain. The system also included Nong Bua Ray reservoir on the eastern piedmont. This phenomenon indicates profound wisdom of world gravity knowledge.

The sites are an outstanding example of ensemble of sacred monuments on the crater of the extinct volcano and on the plain, with the associated the Man-made water control system. That reflect outstanding aspects of architecture, engineering, irrigation, landscape in order to nourish the community center, alongside the road linking Angkor and Phimai, from the 15th-17th until 18th century A.D.

The sites are also an outstanding example of human settlement during the 15th- 18th centuries, reflecting the interactions between humans with the environment. By nourishing the community on the plain with religious principals and water control system by constructing the sanctuaries on the crater of the extinct volcano and on the plain, with the associated the Man-made water control system, uniquely the volcanic craters acted as reservoirs in descending order, that connects human to natural streams and become in a whole unity. This phenomenon indicates profound wisdom of world gravity knowledge. Those remain evidences can be seen until present.

Temples of Phanom Rung, Muang Tam and Plai Bat

According to a reported submitted to UNESCO: The three temples were designed to reflect Hindu theology and astrology. Two volcanoes and one plain were selected for their construction. The main towers were built and placed on the axis of four directions encircled with square or rectangular walls and galleries. They represent Mount Meru, home of Shiva’s and axis of the universe. The Gopura Gates were placed such that the sun on the shone into the main tower chamber for activating the Shiva Linga, the universal Hindu sacred ritual. This can brought life to the whole complex of communities. These great and enduring masterpieces evidence the high point in Angkorian art and architecture. [Source: Thailand National Committee on the World Heritage Convention]

The three temples were built of sandstone, laterite and brick. Pink and white sandstone of the highest quality was chosen. Quarried stone blocks were transported by elephants, rafts and carts to the construction site. Stones were placed on top of each other from foundation to the top roughly shaped, and where then decorated in situ. Weight bearing was skillfully managed, leading to fine preservation over eight centuries, and making restoration feasible. Master sculptors then embellished the temples with floral and human designs depicting scenes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata Epics.

The Phanom Rung, Muang Tam and Plai Bat complex is unique in the Angkorian world for the juxtaposition into a complete whole. Two extinct volcanoes and the surrounding plain were selected for the construction of sacred monuments by the local elite lineage. According to the inscriptions, they were built during the 11th -12th centuries C.E. The sanctuaries themselves represented kingdoms of deities comprising the Main Tower, Wall, Gallery, Gopura with realistic stone carving of the Great Epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata, a processional Walkway, Ponds and reservoirs in a unified architectural plan. This reflects the connection between gods and people. The sandstone material used for Phanom Rung and the stone carving of Prasat Muang Tam is as beautiful as the Banteay Srei Temple in Siem Reap, and portray the unique and outstanding appearance of this tangible heritage complex in Buri Ram Province

Phanom Rung Sanctuary

According to a reported submitted to UNESCO: The Phanom Rung sanctuary compound was constructed over several phases, dated by means of iconography of its art and architectural styles together with its inscriptions. These comprise two foundations of sacred brick buildings of 10th century C.E., the minor sanctuary of 11th century, the central sanctuary built by king Suryavarman II’s relative Narentratitaya in 12th century and two Bannalais (libraries) of the 13th century. Further sacred buildings built in the reign of King Jayavarman VII in 13th century, including the Royal attire Changing Pavilion, the Kudi Rishis of Nong Bua Ray, the medical centre or hospital (Arokayasala) and Prasat Ban Bu, a rest house with fire where travelers could shelter (Dharmasala) on the plain at the foot of Phanom Rung, alongside the road linking Angkor and Phimai. These evidence an important vice-regal centre on and around the mountain that flourishes from the 10th to the 13th centuries. [Source: Thailand National Committee on the World Heritage Convention]

Phanom Rung was built for the worship of Shiva, the supreme Hindu god. The sanctuary compound was architecturally well planed, starting from the staircase at the foot of the mountain up to the main temple on top of the volcano. Next to the staircase is a cruciform platform and a typical 160 metre long processional walkway bordered by seventy sandstone posts decorated with lotus buds. The walkway leads to the three Naga Bridges, five sets of upper stairway and the main sanctuary encircled with both square external wall and gallery on top of the mountain while at the axis of their four directions are placed the entrance gates or Gopuras.

Phanom Rung temple and its gallery were constructed of pink sandstone employing tried and tested Angkorian construction methods such as corbel-vaulting. The building has survived well, and can be easily renovated by applying the Anastylosis method. The decoration of stone pediments and lintels of the main tower and gallery are distinctive and outstandingly crafted. They depict episodes of the classic Ramayana and Mahabharata epics. The most elegant are the dancing Shiva and reclining Vishnu (Vishnu Anantasayin) on the pediment and lintel of entrance porch of the main sanctuary.

The symbolism and location of the site relative to the annual movements of the sun are remarkable. Commanding the mountain top, the temple metaphorically represents Mount Kailash, the dwelling place of Shiva. The divine linga, symbol of Shiva in the main chamber, is illuminated by the sun as its beams pass through the main entrance gopura, thereby stimulating and renewing its life force and ensuring the wellbeing of the surrounding land and communities.

Prasat Muang Tam

Muang Tam Historical Park (near Phanom Run) dates back to the 10th century. Originally surrounded by a laterite wall, it contains some finely carved lintels and wall friezes. Restoration work is still going on. In the area there are more khmer ruins at Kutit Reuslu Nong Bus Lair, Kuti Reusli Khok Meuang ad Prasat baibaek. Both Muang Tam and Phanom Rung were stops on the road linking Angkor with Phimai.

According to a reported submitted to UNESCO: Prasat Muang Tam, a Hindu sanctuary of Shiva, was constructed on the plain eight kilometres south east of Phanom Rung. This temple complex presents a unique architectural style and marvelous stone decoration. It comprises a cluster of five towers on a laterite foundation. The towers were surrounded with two square walls and a gallery. The walls are of laterite with gopuras on the four axes. Four L -shaped ponds with Naga-headed no decoration, were placed at four corners turning the five main towers of the sanctuary into an island. This undoubtedly represents the Hindu mythical concept of Kailash mountain and its four principal rivers. To the north lies a massive reservoir or Baray known as Muang Tam Sea, measuring 510 by 1,090 metres. [Source: Thailand National Committee on the World Heritage Convention]

Archaeological work during the Muang Tam Conservation Project encountered a Shiva Linga from the main brick tower, revealing that the sanctuary was built for the worship of God Shiva. Decoration on the pediments and lintels depict mythical story of Shiva, Krishna, the incarnation of Vishnu and other Hindu deities. On the basis of its iconography and architectural style, Prasat Muang Tam dates to the 11th century C.E.

On the east of Prasat Muang Tam, there is a large Baray named Muang Tam Sea with a capacity of 1.5 million cubic metres. Water from the Phanom Rung and Plai Bat sanctuaries flowed down natural canals to the Muang Tam Sea for irrigating the ricefields between Phanom Rung and Plai Bat.

Restoration and Conservation at Phanom Rung, Muang Tam and Plai Bat

According to a reported submitted to UNESCO: An archaeological study and restoration project undertaken in association with the Thai and French governments in 1971 found that more than 90 percent of the architectural construction materials, such stone lintels, pediments, gallery, walls, ponds and walkways were spread out on the surrounding ground floor of the sanctuaries. All these artifacts were replaced to their original position from the foundation to the top part of the monument complex. [Source: Thailand National Committee on the World Heritage Convention]

There is no doubt that the original of stones with exact carvings related to its design and buildings are faithfully restored. Based upon the series of documentation of arts style and iconography together with inscriptions found in situ, it is concluded that the monument plan and its building complex as it appears today after the restoration, still retains many elements of its original monument plan and buildings. The three sanctuaries still have exactly the same architectural planning as when they were built in the 11th -12th centuries C.E .PhanomRung and Plai Bat Temples were still located on the extinct volcano while Prasat Muang Tam was still at the flat plain below and three of them has been connected with natural canals. The stone carvings of Phanom Rung and Prasat Muang Tam depicting Ramayana and Mahabharata, the great Epics, are intact and still in the right position.

The Fine Arts Department has prepared a master work plan, a budget and action plan including personnel support officers in this management process in the form of a historical park. There is a specific law that is the Act on Ancient Monuments, Antiques, Objects of Art and National Museums B.E. 2504 (1961), as amended in 1992, and other relevant laws for the protection of this great cultural heritage.


Preah Vihear (Thailand-Cambodia border, accessible from Surin, Thailand) is a stunning set of Khmer ruins. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008, it is regarded as the most spectacularly-situated Angkor-era Khmer site. Perched on the edge of a giant cliff and with a commanding view over northern Cambodia, Preah Vihear is an awesome place. The series of ascents over the best part of a kilometer, the ornate buildings and the wealth of decorative detail truly staggers one’s imagination.

Built by the Khmer King Suriyavaraman I in 1037 A.D., a 100 years before Angkor Wat, Preah Vihear consists of crumbling, moss-covered structures with compounds built on four different levels. Dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, the site is perched on a 600-meter cliff and escarpment in the jungle-cloaked Dangrek mountains, which form a natural boundary between Thailand and Cambodia.

Preah Vihear is also known as Khao Pha Viharn. A 162-step stairway leads from the entrance to a steep cliff, 1,500 feet above the Cambodian plains, passing a temple with bas-relief showing how Amarait, the divine Hindu drug of immortality, is made. The other temples feature crumbling gates and steps, columns, blocks of carved pink sandstone and stone nagas (five-headed snakes). There are three stone paws from a stone lion, and ornate lintels (doorway tops) with scenes from Hindu myths such as Shiva riding on Nandi (a sacred bull).

Getting to Preah Vihear: Preah Vihear can be reached by renting a vehicle in Surin. The going rate for an air-conditioned station wagon is $150 (per vehicle, which can be split among the passengers). It takes about three hours to get to Preah Vihear from Surin. It also possible to rent a vehicle in Si Saket for about $50. Si Saket can be reached by two buses from Surit (change in Kantharalak) for a cost of about $3.00. Surin is about 8 hours on a $20 air-conditioned bus from Bangkok. Tours from Bangkok can be arranged through Diethelm Travel. See Cambodia

At the Thai border you pay a fee, walk 15 minutes to the Thai police, then walk to the Cambodian border post and drop off your passport and fill out some forms. Then walk along a path past barbed wire, foxholes and bunkers to the Cambodian police office where you again pay about a fee. From here an Cambodian armed guard takes you a short distance to the ruins.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: Tourist Authority of Thailand, Thailand Foreign Office, The Government Public Relations Department, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books and other publications.

Last updated August 2020

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