Preah Khan, which translates to "sacred sword", was once a city of its own and is one of the largest complexes at the Angkor Archaeological Park. At one point, over 100,000 people served this temple before it fell into disuse.
A Snippet of its History
Commissioned by King Jayavarman VII and completed in 1191, Preah Khan was dedicated by the king to his father. It is also thought that Preah Khan may have been the king's temporary residence while Angkor Thom, the capital city of the Khmer empire, was being constructed.
If you start your visit to Preah Khan from the west, you will be first find yourself on a naga (serpent) bridge, depicting the Churning of the Ocean of Milk which is a well-known scene from Hindu mythology. You'll see devas (gods) on one side of the bridge and asuras (demons) on the other, holding onto the naga. This episode in Hindu mythology tells of devas and asuras pulling on a naga, essentially engaged in a tug of war, which causes the ocean where the serpent was coiled within to churn.
Maze of Hallways
Once you are at the main temple structure, you will find it filled with narrow hallways. There is a central walkway down the centre of the structure, but you could wander off down the smaller, side hallways to see what you would stumble into. For that reason, Preah Khan can be a fun (or confusing, depending on how you look at it) temple to explore. You may stumble upon the Buddhist stupa right at the centre of the temple, or come across the Hall of Dancers, or a two-storey structure which is the only one of its kind found in the temples of Angkor.
Scammed at Preah Khan
While we were at Preah Khan, a man in police uniform approached us. He asked us if we knew how to leave the temple and started helping us with directions. He then told us he wanted to help us take some photos, so he used my travel buddy's phone and told us how to pose at a couple of different spots at the temple. We had seen him helping other tourists take photos before he spoke to us so we thought he was just a friendly guy and went along with it. Afterwards though, he insisted that we tip him and wouldn't leave until we did. While it wasn't a lot of money, it left a sour taste in my mouth. Yes, in Cambodia you will often get asked for money, but I think it's one thing to ask up front for money, and another to dress up in uniform and pretend to be helpful to gain trust, only to insist on getting tipped for it afterwards. I did leave Preah Khan shortly after that, a bit flustered and taken aback.
I don't want this post to be focused on this incident as Preah Khan is a beautiful temple, but I wanted to share this story in the hopes that others won't fall for the same scam, and won't let something like this ruin your visit. A quick search of Preah Khan on TripAdvisor shows that what I experienced wasn't a one-off, so beware! Preah Khan was the only temple I visited in the Angkor Archaeological Park where I came across this, and all of the other locals I had the pleasure to interact with in Cambodia were so hospitable and friendly. This is definitely not the norm, but it's good to be aware.
Want to get here?
Hours: 7:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
Getting here: Preah Khan is a part of the Grand Circuit at the Angkor Archaeological Park.
Admission: Admission to Preah Khan is included in your Angkor Pass.
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