If you have toured Bangkok, the central plains and the north of Thailand, including Chiang Mai, you are most likely familiar with the Thai style temple.

But the further you venture to the northeastern region, the more the style of temples, at least the ancient ones, changes from a classical Ayutthaya style to a more “robust” and archaic looking kind of temple; namely the Khmer style.

The Khmer ruled parts of today’s Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia for a long time and left their most famous ruins in Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

Thailand also inherited some of those temples and especially the one in Phimai district, Nakhon Ratchasima Province, is an excellent specimen.

Interesting an sometimes mystical perspectives

If you have not been to Angkor Wat yet (I highly recommend, you do that! In my humble opinion, Angkor should for sure be on anyone’s bucket list!), you will be amazed by the sheer size of the temple.

Though not as gigantic as Angkor Wat, the Phimai temple is large. 

In fact, the Phimai temple was once the biggest Khmer temple outside of the ancient Khmer empire and connected to Angkor by a direct road.

What many don’t know is that the Phimai temple is approximately 100 years older than the Angkor Wat. It is mentioned in Sanskrit writings from the year 1082 for the first time.

Much like Angkor, the whole temple area is a depiction of the Hindhu and Buddhist universe, with mountains and oceans represented by huge ponds surrounding the mystic mount Meru in its center.

But Phimai was more than just the temple. What today is a charming small town, once was one of the most important spiritual centers of the Khmer kingdom. When you look at the layout of the city, you see that it is surrounded by water on three sides, thanks to canals and the Mun river.

Also remarkable is the road that once led directly from Phimai to Angkor Wat as well as the slight northwestern adjustment of the city, pointing directly at the most important city of the Khmer.

The restoration of the Phimai historical park began in 1964 under the technical guidance of Monsieur Groslier, who already had gathered some experience by helping to restore huge parts of Angkor Wat. The restoration was finished in 1989 when Princess Siridhorn officially opened the park for the public.

One of the temple towers

If you are traveling to northeastern Thailand, locally known as ‘Isarn’, Phimai should definitely be on your list.

It is really a majestic and awe inspiring sight and really out of the ordinary.