The photography guide to the ancient Khmer Thailand-Cambodia hig
 

Prasat Phanom Rung Historical Park and the Muang Tam Sanctuary

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I am getting closer and closer to the Cambodian border and today is time to visit two temple areas I was really looking forward. The Prasat Phanom Rung Historical Park is one of the most visited sites in the eastern part of Thailand, because of its beauty. Muang Tam is the old sanctuary and I believe one of best sites for some awesome travel photography.

Again, the best time to visit both is near sunset time, which is usually the closing time as well. I personally decided to visit them in two different days, in this way I could have the best light for my photography and the optimal temperature. Noon time can be quite hot.

Phanom Rung volcano

The Phanom Rung Historical Park is seating on a extinct volcano at 400m over the sea level. The view to the valley is magnificent, at least I was said by a local guy I had a talk. Unfortunately it was not that good when I was there. Yes, I could see the valley, but with really a poor visibility due to the mix of mist and clouds that obfuscated the view.

You may be luckier than me, especially if you visit the site in the early morning. The best viewpoint is at the bottom end of the Phanom Rung Historical Park. Follow the signals for the toilettes and go behind it, where the small bar is.

Phanom Rung temple

Phanom Rung is probably the most beautiful Khmer temple in Thailand. The area was planned by the Khmer architects with a main entrance and a very long bridge that takes visitors to the building section. It really resembles the main temple in Angkor Wat.

True, the Phanom Rung Historical Park is not as extensive as the Phimai Historical Park however, to my eyes, it is more magnificent. Built between the 10th anf the 13th century, Phanom Rung was a Hindu shrine dedicated to Shiva. You can read more historical and architectural information on the wikipedia page.

Of all the Khmer sites I have being visiting, this is the better preserved one, with maintenance work still around, although not really noticeable.  Being there around the closure time allowed me to enjoy the area almost by myself.

Phanom Rung historical park tour

The entrance fee to the park is 100Baht, or 150Baht if including also Muang Tam. The park is open from sunrise to sunset (around 6am to 6pm). Once you buy the tickets you can also decide to either buy a book, for your personal tour, or take a local guide that will go in the details of the temple with you.

I decided to wonder around with the information I collected on the wikipedia page. I found that it was enough for my curiosity. The page includes also a map.

Prasat Muang Tam – The sanctuary

Yes, also the Khmer had sanctuaries and Muang Tam is a great example of them. Built over 1000 years ago it is still in great conditions, especially considering the limited funding they receive for maintenance.

The main temple is situated in a man made island. I always try to visit temples in the last two hours before they close, almost at sunset. This has few benefits as avoiding the hot hours of the day, having a good light for photography and less tourists around which usually go to the historical sites in the morning.

In my visit I had Muang Tam almost for myself, beautiful!

It was so quite that I could close my eyes and be transported back to the 10th century!

The Prasat Muang Tam history is actually quite interesting. It was built in the 10-11th century and abandoned 700 years ago however 100 years ago people went back to the area and built a village around it. The Muang Tam official website has plenty of information if you are interested to read more.

Phanom Rung how to get there

There are few ways to visit Phanom Rung and extend your visit to Muang Tam. The first and easiest way is by rented car or rented scooter from Nang Rong. The alternatives are either by minivan or taxi, both again from Nang Rong, the closest town with a reasonable choice of accommodation.

By car

It has been a long trip from Bangkok with many towns, markets, historical sites and national parks visited along the route.  I am quite happy I decided to start this trip towards Cambodia. I am even happier I decided to rent a car to do it. The more I drive to the east of Thailand the less tourists I see around and English becomes an unknown language, back to the old good hand signals.

There is still an unanswered question: will be possible to drive to Cambodia through the border?

From Nang Rong to the Phanom Rung Historical Park it is an easy 26km drive. Add another 8km and you are in Muang Tam.

By bus and minivan

Before renting a car I checked few alternatives leaving Bangkok. There is a direct bus from the Mo Chit station in the north-eastern part of the city to Nang Rong

From the capital it is a 5-6 hours trip.

Once in Nang Rong I would have rented a motorbike/scooter (250-300 baht). I have been driving motorbikes and scooter for such a long time in impossible traffic and road conditions. I feel quite comfortable….fingers crossed 😀

The alternative would have been a rented motortaxi for a day (600-700baht).

I asked also my accommodation if there was any trip/minivan visiting both and the answer was yes (as expected in Thailand, everything is possible)

Where did I sleep

I decided to sleep in Nang Rong and keep the small town as a base to visit both areas and the Ta Moan temple in nobody’s land.

The accommodation availability is somehow limited, although options are always there. I decided to stay at the Park Nangrong Resort. It’s one of the nicest hotel in town and at a great value (I paid below AUD30, or 20 Euro). Being far away from the typical touristy path highlights how extremely good value is Thailand.

The garden was lovely and the bedroom perfect for a night stay, clean and well organised

Nang Rong is also a good place to organise VISA and border formalities for Cambodia.

Ta Moan – the border dispute

The trip continued visiting this peace of nobody’s land with the army on both side of the Cambodia-Thai border

Travel Photography tips

  • January to March are the driest months and you will have the best sunset and sunrises
  • visit Phanom Rung and Muang Tam very late in the afternoon, almost wait for the security to kick you out. You will get the best colours as they tend to close very late, almost at sunset.
  • walk to the back of the Phanom Rung main temple, where the toilets are. You will have a beautiful view of the valley, perfect place for some landscape photography (you will be facing west)
  • use the Muang Tam sanctuary reflection in the ponds for some interesting photography
  • check the map for the three sites to visit

Read-the-full-itinerary bangkok to Angkor wat

Map with top sites to visit

Above map includes also the Ta Moan temple in nobody’s land.


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Stefano Ferro
Stefano is a cycling, movie and life style photographer with a big love for landscape & travel photography. When in Melbourne, his hometown, you will see him cycling around at sunset or sunrise looking for the best spot for a photo of this beautiful city. It is quite amazing how much photography gear he can pack on his bike :o

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