One of the main goals of my motorbike ride around Cambodia was to visit the controversial Preah Vihear temple. Located on the border with Thailand, and claimed by both countries, it has long been a source of tension between the neighbors. Tensions have thawed, so it is currently a safe place to visit.

The temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is spectacularly situated on top of a mountain, with an ancient staircase leading to the top. From one side there are views into Thailand, and from the other views over Cambodia.

Because of the disputed nature of the site, there is a heavy military presence. On the approach to temple, the steep road passes wooden shacks where the soldiers and their families live. Soldiers spend their days watching Thailand. Each of the temple buildings has soldiers standing guard.

I did not attempt to take pictures without the soldiers in the frame, as I believe their presence tells the story of Prea Vihear temple.

Motorbikes are absolutely prohibited on the grounds.
Motorbikes are strictly prohibited on the grounds.

How To Visit Preah Vihear Temple Independently

The closest town to Preah Vihear Temple is not Preah Vihear town, which is the capital of Preah Vihear province. The small town of Sra’am is nearby, and modern hotels line the road out of town. Asking at each of them is the best way to find the lowest price. There are a few small restaurants in town with pots of tasty curies out front. You can just point at what you want.

A short drive takes you to the ticket building, where you buy your $10 ticket. Be sure to bring your passport. They will check it to make sure you aren’t Thai.

Guarding Thailand
Guarding Thailand

At this point you are free to drive up yourself, or hire a moto for $5 to take you up and back. it’s nice that they have a set price, and sell you an official ticket, so you don’t have to negotiate with the drivers.

I opted to hire a driver, and I’m glad I did. The last portion is on the old road, and it was ridiculously steep. It must have been more than 45 degrees. It was a little scary on the back of the bike, and I was a little worried about falling off. I would not have been able to drive this myself.

Guard duty.
Guard duty.
Up the steps.
Up the steps.
Ancient avenue.
Ancient avenue.
A soldier in the doorway.
A soldier in the doorway.
A spectacular place for a temple.
A spectacular place for a temple.
Amazing ruins.
Amazing ruins.
In the temple courtyard.
In the temple courtyard.
Be sure to enjoy the scenic drive back to town.
Be sure to enjoy the scenic drive back to town.
Sunset in Sra'am.
Sunset in Sra’am.
Gone fishin'.
Gone fishin’.
Terry
I'm Terry, former cubicle-dweller, and now traveler, photographer, writer, and entrepreneur. I quit my job in 2014 to travel to US national parks, then to South East Asia. I write about independent, flexible, long-term, budget travel. Sign up to my newsletter to get the latest news on what I'm up to. I hope you join me on my trek around the world.

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