Hemmed in by its old city walls and encircled by tributaries of the Mun River, the small modern town of PHIMAI, 60km northeast of Khorat, is dominated by the charmingly restored Khmer temple complex of Prasat Hin Phimai. No one knows for sure when the prasat was built or for whom, but as a religious site it probably dates back to the reign of the Khmer king Suriyavarman I (1002–49), and parts of the complex are said to be older than Cambodia’s Angkor Wat. The complex was connected by a direct road to Angkor and oriented southeast, towards the Khmer capital. Over the next couple of centuries Khmer rulers made substantial modifications, and by the end of Jayavarman VII’s reign in 1220, Phimai had been officially dedicated to Mahayana Buddhism. Phimai’s other claim to fame is Sai Ngam (Beautiful Banyan), reputedly the largest banyan tree in Thailand. Otherwise there’s plenty to like about its peaceful, small-town feel. Most visitors arrive here on day-trips, but with an excellent guesthouse and plenty of opportunities for early-morning bike rides, it’s worth staying overnight.

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