After our stay in Don Det and the expiry date stamped on our visas approaching fast (perhaps faster than we realized), it was time to enter Thailand and make our way towards Bangkok again. Before going all the way to Bangkok though we wanted to check out the Khmer ruins in Nang Rong. Normally we would have done a post about our border crossing, and perhaps a YouTube video, but the crossing was so easy and painless we both decided it wasn’t necessary. We purchased our ticket on Don Det for bus service back to Pakse, across the border, and on to Ubon, Thailand for about $15 usd. It was simple and as fast as possible for these two countries. In Ubon we booked a cheap room for one night at the Fundee Mansion, which is probably the best option for those just passing through, and hit the road again for Nang Rong.
We had to take two separate buses to get to Nang Rong from Ubon since there wasn’t one going there directly. A few blocks away from the Nang Rong bus station we found the Honey Inn and were very happy with the room, the price (250 b), and the family that owned it. The owner took over management from his parents after serving in the Thai military and uses part of the hotel to teach music. He also rents motorbikes, which is really the best way to see the Khmer ruins near by. They provided us with a map of the area and pointed out some of the best places to eat including the standard and delicious night market.
The Khmer ruins around Nang Rong are some of the best in Thailand. The Phanom Rung Historical Park is the highlight of the area but for those Khmer enthusiasts there are several more sights to explore. In one day we were able to explore Phanom Rung, Prasat Meuang Tam, and two other sets of ruins near by that don’t generally receive many visitors.
Phanom Rung rests on a on top of an extinct volcano which offers some splendid views of the surrounding area. The site is one of the most northern reaches of the Khmer Empire and was created using a mix of lava rock collected near by and imported sandstone which had to be transported up the 300 meter volcano. Apparently the sandstone was easier to carve compared to the local lava rock. The intricate carvings all depict traditional Hindu scenes primarily with Shiva and Vishnu. The temple was also positioned in a way that would allow the sun to shine down the hall ways at sunrise and sunset on certain dates of the year. Unfortunately we were not there on any of those days. The place attracts a lot of Thai tourists but very few foreigners which was a little refreshing.
At the bottom of the hill from Phanom Rung is a large reservoir dug by the Khmer Empire and the ruins of Prasat Meuang Tam. Four small ponds surround the temple and a wall encloses the whole complex. It’s a rather peaceful place to hang out and have a picnic. Large trees line the inside of the wall before the temple and there’s plenty of space to get away from the crowds.
We then went to two unnamed temples nearby that see very few visitors. There was a placard which indicated that the ruins were a sort of nursing home and that ruins like those had been uncovered throughout Cambodia, the heart of the Khmer Empire. Renting a motorbike to see these ruins allowed us to enjoy them at our own pace and avoid the crowds. Once we had our fill of ruins for the day we took the back roads to Nang Rong and enjoyed the scenic rice paddies in the countryside.
The next morning we caught an early morning bus to Bangkok so we could catch our flight to Nepal. The himalayas are calling us again and it’s time to lace up our trekking boots. We enjoyed Nepal so much last year we wanted to put it on the itinerary again and explore some new areas we had not seen yet.