Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Koh Ker revealed

The broken staircase to the top of Prasat Thom in 2001
Great news for travellers to Koh Ker, 130kms northeast of Siem Reap and Angkor. After falling stones made the staircase unsafe a few years ago, the wonderful views from the top of the 40 metre-high sandstone seven-tier pyramid of Prasat Thom have been out of bounds. However, news just in tells me that a brand new wooden staircase has been erected and fifteen visitors at one time, are being allowed to climb the steep stairs to the top. The views over the surrounding forest and west to Phnom Kulen are fabulous and if you don’t mind heights, it’s definitely worth the climb to the top. There is a wooden platform at the  postage-stamp sized summit for extra safety. The pyramid is almost Mayan in appearance and is an amazing feat of engineering from when the Koh Ker complex was being constructed by King Jayavarman IV from 928. The Koh Ker period is known for its impressively large sculptures and some of the biggest Shiva lingas in the country, and just over two hours drive from the main Angkor Park. The photograph of Prasat Thom was taken by me in 2001. The staircase was broken, rickety and downright unsafe. I took my life in my own hands to climb to the top and then down again, in the dark after sunset. I still get the shakes when I think about it now. One slip and I would've been a goner. Fortunately I kept my nerve. Let's hope the new staircase is made of sterner stuff.

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