Thailand // The northeast: Isaan //

Khao Phra Viharn (Preah Vihear)

Perched atop a 547m-high spur of the Dangkrek mountains right on the Thai–Cambodian border, the ninth-to-twelfth-century Khmer ruins of KHAO PHRA VIHARN (or Preah Vihear) surpass even the spectacularly set Phanom Rung. A magnificent avenue over 500m long rises to the clifftop sanctuary, from where you get breathtaking views over the jungle-clad hills of Cambodia.

Unfortunately, the sanctuary has been closed on and off since 2008 due to a territorial dispute between Thailand and Cambodia over who owns the site. In July 2011, following a fresh series of skirmishes, the International Court of Justice ruled that both countries should remove their forces from the area. But in November 2011 the stalemate continued, with significant numbers of soldiers still stationed along the border, and, at the time of writing, the complex remained closed.

In fact, the complex was only opened to visitors in 1998, following almost a century of squabbling between the two governments. During Cambodia’s civil war, the Khmer Rouge laid mines around the temple, and while the ruins have been de-mined, there are skull-and-crossbones signs in the vicinity, which should be heeded if and when the temple reopens to visitors.

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