Ta Moan temple in the Thailand-Cambodia border – Ultimate Guide
The Ta Moan temple is one of the most incredible and freakish experiences I would (maybe not) suggest to everybody.
Ta Moan Temple – The 7 Key Points
- Unique Experience: Ta Moan Temple offers an unparalleled experience, far removed from typical tourist destinations. It’s a place where you can find yourself alone, except for the watchful eyes of both Thai and Cambodian armies.
- Border Dispute: The temple is located in a disputed area between Thailand and Cambodia, making it a politically sensitive zone. Both armies are present, and visitors must leave their passports at a Thai Army checkpoint.
- Historical Significance: Built in the 11th century during the reign of Khmer King Suryavarman I, the temple complex consists of three main structures, each with unique architectural features.
- Safety Precautions: Given the sensitive nature of the area, it’s crucial to be cautious. The last real problems occurred in 2011, but the situation has been stable since.
- Accommodation: There’s no accommodation near the temple. Nang Rong serves as a good base for visiting Ta Moan and other nearby historical sites.
- Getting There: Multiple options are available, from buses to car rentals. The closest town with accommodation is Nang Rong, which is about a 5-hour trip from Bangkok.
- Photography Tips: The best months for photography are January to March. However, be cautious with your camera equipment, as the presence of both armies can make photography a sensitive issue.
Is Ta Moan temple worth a visit?
Hard to say. There are a few benefits like the total lack of tourism, in fact, I was the only one there (scary).
Somehow I felt like I was living a unique experience that goes beyond the tourist or traveller experience. Far from Indiana Jones but away also from Kho Samui, Bangkok or Ayutthaya, all beautiful places to visit, however typical places on many people’s to-do-list.
Yeah, I know, it is an experience I could have paid literally with blood but still, I am happy I have done it. Would I suggest it? Not to everybody, at least now you know you are taking a reasonable risk.
Of course, the main problem is the long-standing dispute on the border between Cambodia and Thailand.
The Cambodian–Thai border dispute
Although the dispute over the border has officially ended and Ta Moan is now part of Cambodia, in reality, both the Thai and the Cambodian armies are still there, literally elbow to elbow with weapons in hand.
To access I had to leave my passport at the Thai Army checkpoint but no stamps or official papers in return, just a number, as at the cloakroom.
I always feel better thinking I have two nationalities and passports and if one is lost I can always use the other one, although I believe it is not that simple.
Being without a passport is one of the DO-NOT things that any traveller should learn first. But sometimes rules are made to be broken
The last real problems were experienced in 2011 with clashes that caused one Cambodian soldier to die and a Thai one to be wounded. Time has passed and no more issues since, however, caution has to be taken.
A short history of the Ta Moan temple
Dating back to the 11th century, the Ta Moan temple was built during the reign of the Khmer King Suryavarman I. The temple complex consists of three main structures: Ta Moan, Ta Moan Toch, and Ta Moan Thom, each with its own unique architectural and artistic features.
Architecturally, the Ta Moan temples exhibit classic Khmer Hindu elements. Over time, the site has also acquired Buddhist elements, reflecting the changing religious landscape of the region.
The temples are largely built from laterite and sandstone, and despite years of neglect and conflict, many of the original carvings and structures remain intact. However, the site has suffered from looting and damage due to its disputed status and relative isolation.
How is the Ta Moan temple visit
Once I left my passport, a Thai soldier escorted me to the main temple area where I could wander around, but with the eyes of both armies always on me. I was never alone.
Yes, I was a bit nervous, if only for the fact that this was nobody’s land and I had no passport with me.
The temple was just beautiful, maybe only for the fact that I was alone (besides the soldiers) without any other visitor. Clearly, this is not a touristy place.
Where did I sleep
There is no accommodation close to the Ta Moan temple. It’s also a bit of a trip to get there but totally worth it in my opinion. If you are passionate about Khmer history you should add it to your bucket list and make the effort.
Similarly, if you are after a unique experience, that goes beyond the mainstream destinations, then Ta Moan has to be.
I decided to sleep in Nang Rong and keep the small town as a base to visit, beside Ta Moan, the Prasat Phanom Rung Historical Park and the Muang Tam sanctuary.
The accommodation availability is somehow limited, although options are always there. I decided to stay at the PP Pool Resort. It’s one of the nicest hotels in town and at a great value, especially considering they have a nice pool too. Being far away from the typical touristy path highlights how extremely good value can be Thailand.
The garden was lovely and the bedroom perfect for a night stay, clean and well organised
Ta Moan how to get there
The closest town with accommodation is Nang Rong. In Thailand, there is always a bus to any place you want and surprisingly enough there is a direct one running from Bangkok’s northeastern bus terminal (Mo Chit) to Nang Rong, it’s a 5 hours trip.
In saying that, on my last trip, I decided to rent a car in Bangkok to have more flexibility in my exploration. It was actually a great decision because I could stop at other destinations along the route, like the Prasat Muang Tam Sanctuary, Ayutthaya, and the Lopburi Monkey Temple.
In Nang Rong, you can also rent a motorbike/scooter (250-300 baht) or rent a (motor)taxi for a day. You can also ask your accommodation if there is any trip going to Ta Moan. Sharing a taxi is the best option if you are in 3-4 of you.
Travel Photography Tips
- January to March are the driest months and you will have the best sunsets and sunrises
- take a small mirrorless or just your mobile at Ta Moan and you will be able to take some unique photos including both armies in this nobody’s land. I had the big camera and the soldiers kept stopping me. They probably thought I was an international journalist.
- do not visit Ta Moan in the late afternoon. It may be ideal for photography but you do not want to risk driving in the dark. It is already complicated to find your way around during the day
- plan carefully with the map of your trip. There are almost no street signals
Map with top sites to visit
The above map includes also the Prasat Phanom Rung Historical Park and the Muang Tam Sanctuary.