During the height of its power, the Khmer empire with Angkor at its center had a very strong presence in Thailand. Much of the country was under control of the Khmer. Across their empire the Khmer built a large number of temples that were dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva.
The ruins of a great number of Khmer temples can still be found in Thailand today. Across North East Thailand are scattered the remains of dozens of Khmer temples, in various states of preservation.
While some of the Khmer sites are well visited, a large number of the less known monuments are usually very quiet, also due to their location far from the main tourist destinations.
The ancient roads connecting Angkor to other parts of the empire
The Khmers had a number of ancient roads built to connect Angkor to other parts of the empire. One of those roads connected Angkor (current day Siem Reap in Cambodia) to Phimai in North East Thailand, a distance of about 250 kilometers. A number of well preserved and impressive Khmer temples is found along this road.
A little over half way the road in Buriram province are two magnificent Khmer temples only a few kilometers apart. Phanom Rung built on top of a hill and Muang Tum at the base of the hill. Phimai at the end of the ancient highway is the largest of the Khmer temples in Thailand. All three of these temples that were built roughly a thousand years ago are on UNESCO’s tentative list for consideration as a future World Heritage Site.
Along the highway the Khmer built rest houses and hospitals, the remains of some of which have been found.
Khmer temples across Thailand
Although the largest and best known Khmer temples are found in the North Eastern part of Thailand, the remains of Khmer monuments can be found over much of the country.
Lopburi town, North of Bangkok was a provincial capital in the Khmer empire. Khmer presence can still be seen today in the form of the Phra Prang Sam Yot, the massive three stone prangs dating back to the 13th century and the Wat Phra Sri Rattana Mahathat temple, that is a little older.
Towards the West, the Khmer empire stretched out almost as far as Myanmar. The Khmer temple furthest to the West is the Prasat Muang Singh in Kanchanaburi province, some 30 kilometers East of the Thai border with Myanmar. This complex and surrounding town likely served as a military base protecting the Western border of the Khmer empire.
Further to the South in Phetchaburi is the Wat Kamphaeng Laeng temple, that was built in the 12th century as a temple to the Hindu God Shiva, but was later converted into a Buddhist temple.