Phimai historical park is the largest Khmer temple in Thailand. The whole building is a rectangular complex which is more than 1,000 meters long and over 60 meters wide. It owns some of best examples of Khmer architecture in Thailand. Actually, it is a Buddhist temple instead of a Hinduist temple although it was built by Hindu.
Officially named Prasat Hin Phimai, Phimai was built between the 11th to the 12th century, during which period this area of Thailand was under the reign of the Khmer empire. It is located at the end of the ancient road connecting with Angkor (Siem Reap at present). Other Khmer temples as Phang Rung and Muang Tum are in between of them.
According to the size and the its style which resembles Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Phimai must have been a very important temples during those old period. What more it faces the direction of Angkor in Cambodia in the south east not like other Khmer temples always face the east.
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Overlooking of Phimai
The overlooking and the layout of Phimai remind us of Phanom Rung, another Khmer temple also located along this ancient road towards the Angkor. Phimai also has outer walls and moats surrounded its rectangular complex as well as a number of ponds symbolized the oceans surrounding Mt. Meru, the Hindu center of the universe.
Naga (mythological serpent) bridge is a must in this kind of the Khmer temples. To the left of it, a small structure can be found which was built as a place for the king to prepare himself for ceremonies in inside the inner sanctuary. Passing the Naga bridge means walk into the world of the Gods from the world of men.
On the other end of the Nage bridge, it is the gateway to the southern outer wall where visitors can access to the temple complex. On the long walkway to the inner sanctuary, you will get an impressive view of the temple structures with the massive prang in the center. There are two libraries where ancient sacred scriptures were kept just besides the inner sanctuary.
The inner sanctuary of Phimai
The inner sanctuary is surrounded by galleries. At the entrance of the inner sanctuary, you can see the exquisite carved pediments and lintels of the door. The vivid carving depicts the stories of Shiva and from the life of Buddha. There are three prangs in the inner sanctuary. The central and the largest one symbolizes the Mt. Meru, the center of the universe in Hindu cosmology. The sacred linga, symbolize the power of Shiva is enshrined here.
The central prang was built during between the 11th and 12th century and inscriptions dedicated to the Buddha was carved in it so we can identify it was built as a Buddhist temple. The other wo smaller Prang in the inner sanctuary were built in the 13th century.
A prang used to be in the sanctuary now is on display in the Phimai National Museum nearby because it has a statue of Khmer King Jayavarman VII carved in it.
Renovated in the second half of the 1960's, Phimai historical park is placed on UNESCO's tentative list for future listing as a World Heritage Site.
Phimai National Museum
The Phimai national museum exhibits a large number of artifacts from various remote area of Northeast Thailand and there are also many items from nearby Prasat Hin Phimai including the valuable statue of Jayavarman VII, the Khmer empire king during the end of the 12th century. Ceramic pottery founded in the nearby Ban Prasat archeological site that was inhabited over 3,000 years ago also on display.
How to get to Phimai
Phimai historical park is locate remote small town of Phimai in Nakhon Ratchasima province, around 300km to the northeast of Bangkok. It is not very easy to get the place. Firstly, you have to take a long distance bus or train from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima which take about 5-6 hours, but the train or long distance bus run every day. Secondly, you have to take a local bus in Nakhon Ratchasima to Phimai which takes about 1 hour. The good news is that the buses leave multiple times every hour, so you need not wait long.
Phimai historical park opens daily from 8:00am to 6:00pm
Phimai national museum opens daily from 09:00 to 04:00pm
Explore Thailand with UME Travel
These itineraries with some visits to the sacred the elegant Thai temples are designed to give you some suggestions for what is possible when you travel to Thailand. They showcase the routes that we've found work very well. Take them as your travel inspiration, because your trip will be designed uniquely for you on your particular interests.
Temples in Thailand