During my time in Phnom Penh, I met one of the travel writers for the Lonely Planet aka every backpackers bible.
He was heading out for a tour of the more remote and less-visited temples with a few of his friends that were in town and asked if I wanted to tag along.
Um, heck yes!
Kok Nokor Temple
Kok Nokor is a 7th century temple, so it is actually pre-Angkorian.
It is quite a small site, but interesting nonetheless.
The architecture is very similar to Angkor Wat, so it was a good introduction to this temple style.
It is def in the middle of nowhere, but still has a $2 charge. Not really worth it compared to some of the other temples we saw afterwards.
Someone had the bright idea of walking up the 816 stairs to the monkey temple (me).
It was a brutally sweaty climb, but it was def worth it to see all of the monkeys at the top!
There were a bunch of different modern temples at the top of the mountain, with one that had a huge Buddha footprint and a papier mâché tree inside.
Snoul AKA Spider Village
We made a pit stop for lunch at 'spider village', known for selling cooked tarantulas in the market. Obviously, I indulged ;)
They really weren't too bad - kind of a BBQ after taste. Yum!
We also stopped at a village where they carve statues out of sandstone - so cool to see the unfinished statues lining he dusty road!
We arrived in Kampong Thom about an hour before sunset, so we dropped our stuff off and went for a boat ride along the river.
Our place wasn't too shabby, either.
It had a great swimming pool - so necessary in this heat - with cute little bungalows.
I had my first experience with fish amok at the restaurant.
Sambor Prey Kuk Temples
There is a new road that has been constructed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to Sambor Prey Kuk, so it has become much easier to get to compared to a few years ago.
The ADB is also helping construct a market place at the entrance in the hopes of increasing the tourist flow to this temple.
I thought that these temples were really cool, giving us another taste of Angkorian temple architecture.
These ones are actually older than those around Siem Reap, so it is recommended to see them first to appreciate he grandeur of the Angkor Wat complex.
My fave was the temple that has essentially been swallowed by a tree.
Nature strikes back.
There were cool octagonal temples here as well.
I would def recommend making a stop here if you can!
Preah Khan Temples
My fave stop on our tour was at Preah Khan.
There are two locations of temples. The first is an overgrown temple that still has faces intact.
The second is a large enclosure with many crumbling temples.
It's kind of tragic, actually, because they were all still in pretty good condition until the 1980s when treasure hunters came in with modern drills and completely destroyed the foundations and cause them all to crumble.
The result is a mysterious temple graveyard, of sorts, with trees starting to take over.
Our last stop was at Koh Ker, which is about 120km north east of Siem Reap.
It is a huge temple complex, which you could explore over two days - there is a guest house available there if you choose to go this route.
We showed up at around 5pm, so we went straight to the site where there is a huge Hindu temple, which resembles a Mayan step temple.
There are stairs that you can walk up and look out onto the surrounding jungle.
An awesome place to watch the sunset!
There are also amazing old temples that lead up to this one, so mysterious in the jungle.
Overall, I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to see these temples that are off the beaten track - we were the only tourists aside from a few at Koh Ker(!).
If you have access to a land cruiser or a moto, I would def recommend heading out to some of the more remote temples and not just those near Siem Reap.
It's amazing to be able to explore temples essentially all by yourself. Loved it!