Part 3: Khmer Temples and Buri Ram
Ah finally, I am able to write Part 3 of my little Northeast Thailand trip. Sorry for the delay but if you’ve been following along with me then you understand. For those that have no idea why there was a delay… I got engaged… IN BALI. You can read all about the proposal and see adorable pictures of Sean and me here. I love some temple chasing so when I discovered there were Khmer Temples to explore in Buri Ram, I knew I needed to go.
There is something about temples that no matter the shape they are in, they are breathtakingly beautiful. Last year, I was extremely lucky that I got to see Angkor Wat in person. A childhood dream of mine and I loved all 70,000 steps explored over 3 days. In Vietnam, a visit to My Son Sanctuary also had my eyes wide open as Sean and I explored what is affectionately known as Vietnam’s Angkor Wat.
The Khmer Region has a very distinct style and they build everywhere. Some preserved quite well and others have been destroyed. Angkor Wat is by far the biggest area of them with varying levels of condition. The Buri Ram Temples are gorgeous. I don’t know why this isn’t on more peoples radar!
The Khmer Empire was the predecessor state to what is known as Cambodia. It was considered the most powerful Hindu-Buddhist empire in Southeast Asia during its heyday. The Empire at times ruled over most of mainland Southeast Asia with its greatest legacy being Angkor Wat. As such, the Khmer Empire to show off their power, wealth, as well as their culture, was to build in a particular technique. Thus, the distinct characteristics of the Khmer temple no matter where they are.
Many of these buildings were religious in nature with only temples of religious buildings constructed by stone. The religious architecture of Angkor has characteristic structures, elements, and motifs (Thanks Wikipedia).
Phanom Rung Historical Park
The temples are about a 30-40 minute drive from Buri Ram on a beautiful drive. There are guesthouses you can stay in nearby though but you don’t need more than a few hours at both temples. Don’t be an idiot like me though and go exploring at peak of the afternoon. The sun was blaring and the temperature was close to 100 degrees.
Also just like Angkor Wat please make sure to dress appropriately. That means no knees showing and shoulders covered. When in doubt bring a scarf to drape over your shoulders as shown below.
Entry for both parks cost a whopping 150 baht aka $4.80. There are no English-speaking guides sadly but the free brochure is pretty good. It tells you some insightful information as do the plaques outside. And when in doubt Wikipedia does a trick.
About ten minutes drive away is the second temple and it doesn’t have the grand entrance as Phanom Rung but don’t let its outside exterior fool you. Once taking a few steps in you will be in awe of the water, details and vast amount of rooms in this seemingly small temple.
This one does not have as many plaques. Full disclosure, I had some kind of feeling when I was walking around this temple. It wasn’t just the mild-heat stroke but honestly, you could feel the history when walking around. It was just an incredible feeling to have walking around and seeing similarities to temples that I saw in Vietnam and Cambodia. Since there was basically no one else around it was quiet, relaxing and beautiful. You are also able to sit by the water which you can’t do in Angkor Wat on steps that have been around for a very long time.
The Buri Ram Low Down
We stayed in Buri Ram the major city and not only is it super affordable but the food is incredible. If you are there on the weekend make sure to go to the night market with an empty stomach. Try local delicacies like Isaan Chicken, Papaya Salad and taste other favorites like dumplings, smoothies and more. Best part? It is even cheaper than street food in Bangkok. The night market is two long lanes. One side sells the normal night market stuff and the other is all food.
Personally, we stayed at the Green at Buri Ram Hotel and it was cute. Only twin beds but my god those beds were comfortable. No seriously. It was the most comfortable bed I have slept in a VERY long time. It was clean and the breakfast was ON POINT. Better yet, it was cheap. Making it budget friendly and is about a 20-minute walk to the night market. Though, honestly after a day of exploring I’d recommend just driving to the night market. The first part of the walk isn’t that nice. Parking is easy enough too, even during busy times.
How To Get To Buri Rum
If you are wanting a bit of an adventure, I say do the drive from Bangkok. Break it into sections like we did in Part 1 and Part 2. The roads are easy to navigate and fairly good to drive on. Plus, you get to see parts of the country you otherwise would miss, which I personally love. Also, make sure to stop at all the Cafe Amazons along the way and get Fresh Milk Iced Lattes.
If you don’t feel like driving… Buri Ram does have an airport. There are also daily flights from Bangkok for as little as $40 roundtrip. If you just want to visit the temples and have a proper Issan meal then a night and day are all you need. I saw advertisements for hiring drivers. You can also rent a car at the airport for the night.
Buses are frequent from Bangkok but you will need a car to get around Buri Ram or to hire a driver. Needless to say, there are a variety of ways to get down to this not so busy area of Thailand.
If you love temples and going off the beaten path then I highly recommend visiting. It also is a quick alternative to Angor Wat if you can’t make it there or afford the steep entrance.