If you are keen on visiting far away sites, leave Siem Reap around 6.30 AM so you can start with Koh Ker, a remote archaeological site in northern Cambodia about 120 Km away from Siem Reap and Angkor site, and where more than 80 sanctuaries were found in a protected area of 81 square Km. On your way back to Siem Reap, pass by Beng Melea, a remarkable site with a contemporary temple of Angkor Wat.
These sites are not included in Angkor pass and you will have to pay 5 dollars more for Beng Melea and 10 for Koh Ker.
Koh Ker is the modern name of an important city of the Khmer empire, Chok Gargyar, and where the King of the kings, Jayavarman IV, established his capital from 928 to 941. It was the only capital outside Angkor site. Jayavarman IV forced an ambitious building program. An enormous water-tank and about forty temples were constructed under his rule. Under his reign the style of Koh Ker was developed and the art of sculpture reached a pinnacle.
In a wide and fairly well preserved forest, the visitor will be able to see many temples of great architectural quality, despite a frequent state of ruin that does not fail to attract by its authenticity and romantic charm.
The most significant temple complex, a double sanctuary (Prasat Thom/Prang), follows a linear plan and not a concentric one like most of the temples of the Khmer kings. Unparalleled is the seven tiered and 36-metre high pyramid, which most probably served as state temple. It is the highest in Cambodia and South-East Asia.
Do not miss Prasat Kraham, a great sanctuary in brick that hosted a giant 5-head statue of God Shiva and Prasat Chen where we had a variety of wonderful statues.
Many of them have been stolen during the troubles of the 70´s and have been recuperated recently from museums and auctions in USA! The style of these statues is unique in the region; it reflects the sculpture in movement and represents two great epics of India, adapted in Khmer world, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.
You can have lunch in one of the typical restaurant near the site and leave around 1.30AM to be able to visit Beng Melea on your way back to Siem Reap.
Reopened to visitors after cleaning it from land mines, Boeng Melea was a large Buddhist monastic city, centered by a flat temple. By the dimensions, by the ground plan, and by the style the temple is similar to Angkor Wat (first half of 12th century) with which it is contemporary. It is to a great extend collapsed and that makes it somehow fascinating! Admire its decorative architecture, the naga balustrade, the jungle landscape (forest, baray).
After this long journey, get relax and enjoy an ancient Khmer massage. This massage follows the body´s energy lines from feet to the head and is used to release pain, to relax and ease muscular tension.