Phanom Rung maybe is the most amazing Khmer architecture site in Thailand. It was constructed in Angkor style during the 10th until the 13th century as a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva.
Phanom Rung, officially named Prasat Hin Phanom Rung was built on top of a hill in Buriram province on the base of which another Khmer complex, Muang Tum was constructed around the same time. As the main tower is made out of pink sandstone, the complex is also called Phanom Rung stone castle.
The temple was built on top of a hill which symbolizes Mount Kailash, a holy mountain in Hinduism on top of which Shiva lives. Phanom Rung lies on the ancient route from Angkor (the center of the ancient Khmer empire) to Phimai in Nakhon Ratchasima province.
Upon entering the site one sees a 160 meters long processional walkway leading up to the temple. Walking towards the temple provides impressive views of the main tower and the stairs leading to it. A pavilion on the right side of the walkway was built for the King to prepare himself for ceremonies in the temple.
At the end of the walkway you will find the first Naga bridge, followed by the wide stairway to the main tower. After passing a second Naga bridge you will arrive at the gallery that encloses the inner sanctuary. The naga bridges symbolise the passing from the earthly world into the world of the Gods.
The inner sanctuary
The pediments and lintels on top of the entrance gates or gopuras to the inner sanctuary are decorated with carvings of the Hindu Gods Shiva and Vishnu, as well as with scenes from the epic Ramayana.
Inside the inner sanctuary is the main tower that is made out of pink sandstone which measures 23 meters high and over 9 meters wide. This tower represents Mount Meru, the Hindu center of the universe. It enshrined the sacred linga that symbolizes the strength of Shiva.
A smaller tower as well as two brick towers around the main one. These date from the 10th and 11th century and are the oldest structures of Phanom Rung. The inner sanctuary also contains two libraries, where sacred Hindu scriptures were kept. A number of ponds in the Phanom Rung temple complex symbolise the oceans surrounding Mount Meru.
How to get there
There are domestic flights into Buriram but because the road trip from Bangkok is little over 3 hours it is not seen as economical to have a domestic flight on that route. There is a rail connection and bus services are well organised as well so a holiday in Thailandis easy to arrange.