Just a quick update from Si Saket, a town eight hours by car from Bangkok. My colleagues and I arrived late last night in this charming and chilly town. And today we visited the highly contested archaeological site of Phreah Vihear (in Khmer) or Phra Viharn (in Thai), which rests on the edge of a 600-meter high cliff, overlooking the flat plains of Cambodia.
The ancient Khmer temple, built between the 10th and 11th century, is a part of Cambodia but one can only access it through Thailand. For a while both countries vied for its jurisdiction and it was not only in 1962 that the International Court of Justice declared it as a part of Cambodia. Recently, the Cambodian government expressed its plan to submit it for listing as a World Heritage Site, and somehow this revived the Thais' sentiment over their ownership of the temple.
Anyhoot, today we crossed over the border to Cambodia, so technically I was in Cambodian soil for roughly a couple of hours. It was a steep 162-step climb to reach the first gopura (similar to a gate). As I was with an archaeologist friend, she explained to me a great deal of the details of the temple, especially the bas reliefs and lintels that adorn the walls of the complex.
The state of the structures are pretty much in bad shape, hence, the resolve of the Cambodian government, as I was told, to enlist it as a World Heritage Site to raise funds for restoration. Having seen before a number of Khmer temples in both Cambodia and Thailand, Phreah Vihear is very familiar to me already. The magnificent views that surround the place, together with its historical distinction in terms of Thai-Cambodian relations, make it a remarkable visit anyhow.
And oh, did I mention that I camwhored?
Tomorrow we are moving to Surin, a few kilometers from Si Saket, to visit more Khmer Temples made of laterite (gasp!).