“A work of great dignity and impeccable proportions”, Mauize wrote about Pre Rup in his 1963 guidebook. Looking a bit like a mini Angkor Wat, Pre Rup is a stunning temple that is full of mysteries with queries such as “Was the establishment even completed?”, “Which can Pre Rup reveal about Angkor civilization?”, “It is true that the temple was used to burn bodies?’’, etc.
Being built in the tenth century by the King Rajendraman II, Pre Rup is dedicated to the Hindu god Siva. Virtually, Pre Rup is a temple-mountain. Despite being established several years later, the style of the temple is identical to the East Mebon. Located in the south of East Baray, like many Angkor temples, Pre Rup connects to East Mebon temple on the north-south axis. Situated on a man-made island in the baray, experts assume that the temple was built on the area of a former shivate monastery. For unknown reasons, there is an unproven popular belief that this used to be a burial site. In Cambodia it is a common custom that people organize the funeral in the temple. In fact, in the Khmer language, Pre Rup means “ turning the body” - a step of the ancient funeral ritual. According to that, the image of the body of the death is outlined by their ashes. Some archaeologists believe that the huge vessel at the foot of the east stairway to the central site was served for cremations. The old plasterworks are eroded to uncover the bare bricks that were named after an Angkorian crematorium. At the summit, there is a small place that is believed to say prayers and make an offering before you begin your descent.
The material to make Pre Rup is diverse, ranging from brick, laterite to gray sandstone that seems to be less durable than some construction material. Time and weather have had the considerable impacts on the temple. A lot of intricate carvings and details are worn out by rain or erosion. Despite not being intact as in the first days, Pre Rup is still an awesome construction in terms of architecture, which is worth exploring. Plants grow on the central tower and the bright lush green leaves spread out over the ways and through the gray stone. In sunny days, if you climb to the summit of the temple and look west, you can find Angkor Wat’s towers appearing among the treetops. If you are in the top terrace, in the east, you can see Phnom Bok and the mountain Phnom Kulen and in the west, you can see the towers of Angkor Wat on the far horizon.
What makes Pre Rup distinctive is a chains of long parallel galleries in each side of the temple, which is an outstanding feature of the Khmer architecture in the 10th century. This was replaced later by a continuous gallery - a characteristic emerged after Ta Keo temple was built.
When should you explore Pre Rup?
If you are planning a trip to Siem Reap, you are highly recommended to do it as soon as you can. Some towers of the temples are getting older and weaker. The day they collapse is coming soon. If unfortunate, you may not take an opportunity to discover these masterpieces. Nowadays, wooden beams are set up to support the original towers. The temple is made of brick and laterite which have the warm tone. Therefore the best time to contemplate it is in the morning or the sunset when the great charm of Pre Rup is shown most clearly. The light of early morning or late afternoon is extremely suitable for getting the spectacular view. The weather of this time is more favorable than other times in the day so it gets easier to climb. From May to November, it tends to be cloudy and rainy in the afternoon, which can block the view and cause the stairway slippery.
Pre Rup from the ground
Although Pre Rup takes up a small area, its height is great so climbing to the top requires you to be both patient and brave. If you can hike up Pre Rup, you will surely overcome your fear of height. The steps leading up to Pre Rup is quite steepy and high while the stairway is narrow. Therefore Pre Rup is certainly not recommended for vertigo suffers, young children or those with walking difficulties.
The temple has lots of places to jump or fall so if you bring children along with you, it’s so important to watch them carefully to make sure that accidents won’t happen.
Pre Rup is the most crowded in the sunset. Therefore it’s nearly impossible to take pictures without people.
If you are in the ground and take pictures in the sunset glow, all you can see from the top are shadowy trees and sky and you may not have your expected picture.
As long as you are concerned with the temple, Pre Rup is worth exploring. Once you have done, Pre Rup will surely leave a strong impression on you.
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