For those of us in Cambodia, the Khmer Empire is a well-known subject of interest, but what about the period of time before the Khmer Empire rose to power?
Well, there is an area known as Angkor Borei located south of Phnom Penh in Takeo province that still has some remnants of this period in time known to archaeologists as the Funan period. This area, confirmed by UNESCO to be a World Heritage site, was once the glorious capital and it contains the oldest temple structure in all of Cambodia. This temple site called Phnom Da, is approximately a 2 hours distance by car, which can be an easy day trip for almost anyone who is interested in learning about the past civilizations of Southeast Asia.
Phnom Da is basically a small mountain mound located in the middle of a lush rice field area. There you will find two temples, one is halfway up the mound called (Asram Moha Russei Temple) and the other temple (Phnom Da) is on the top of the mound. The Asram Moha Russei Temple is the oldest standing temple in the region, and has features very similar to ancient structures found in Java, Indonesia. The basalt blocks for this particular temple were believed to be transported from an area in Kratie province, which happens to be quite far away. In addition to these two beautifully constructed pieces of history, there are some other physical features of interest at the mound which includes a couple man-made caves, which are easily accessible and not hard to find (just follow the trail!).
I would like to encourage all Cambodians and visitors to get to know a little more about the period of time known as the Funan period and the historical sites that still remain. There are many people around the world that would love to be as close as you are to these magnificent historical sites. Life is short, so take advantage of your location in the world and seize the moment!
In the future, when you have an opportunity or some extra time, take a look to the past! You will be glad that you did.
By: Daryl J. Koschak