Prasat Ta Meuan

Northeastern Thailand

The most atmospheric of Surin's Khmer ruins is a series of three sites in the forest on the Cambodian border known collectively as Prasat Ta Meuan. They line the ancient Khmer road linking Angkor Wat to Phimai.

The first site, Prasat Ta Meuan proper, was built in the Jayavarman VII period (AD 1181–1210) as part of a rest stop for travellers. It's a fairly small monument with a two-door, five-window sanctuary constructed completely of laterite blocks. One sandstone lintel, of a meditating Buddha, remains.

Just 300m south, Prasat Ta Meuan Toht, which was the chapel for a 'healing station', is a bit larger. Also built by Jayavarman VII, the ruins consist of a gopura, mon·dòp and main prang, all surrounded by a laterite wall.

Nearly 1km further on, next to the army base at the end of the road, is the largest site, Prasat Ta Meuan Thom. This Shiva shrine, built around a natural rock linga, pre-dates the others by as much as two centuries. Despite a somewhat haphazard reconstruction (and major damage from when it was occupied by the Khmer Rouge in the 1980s), this one justifies the effort it takes to get here. Three prang and a large hall are built of sandstone blocks on a laterite base, and several smaller buildings still stand inside the boundary wall. No significant carvings remain. A stairway on the southern end (like Phimai, this temple faces south) drops to Cambodian territory, which begins at the tree line.

The sites begin 10.3km south of Ban Ta Miang (on Rte 224, 23km east of Ban Kruat) via a winding road used more by cows than cars. You need your own transport to get here, and a visit is just as convenient from Phanom Rung as from Surin city. Note the closing time: because of its proximity to the border, the times were chosen for security reasons, though there's no actual risk here as long as you don't wander into the forest.

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