During my recent trip to the north-east of Thailand we made an excursion to a place I have long wanted to visit, as it is the main Khmer site in Thailand: Phimai, still a regional centre and prospering town in the modern age.
In the Middle Ages it seems to have a been a regional capital, and it stands at the end of a long road running north-west from Angkor. It appears that one of the Angkor dynasty’s rulers may have hailed from this area, Jayavarman VI, and the main site may have been established during his reign.
The main historical part is now situated not far from the town centre, and is surrounded on all sides by a built up area, residential as well as commercial, as it must have been in the old days. This has meant however that the archaeological site seems much smaller than it actually is, and other parts of the site, which we didn’t have time to visit are found in outlying areas.
The site is fairly similar to Prasat Phanom Rung, photos from which I published a couple of weeks ago, but lacks the magnificent setting of the latter. It also seems the Phimai site was perhaps more damaged than Phanom Rung, as many of the lintels and pediments are now kept in museums, and are not in situ any more.
Which brings us to the National Museum at Phimai, situated around 400 metres from the Park. Anyone who has been impressed with the Historical Park really must visit the Museum as well, as it contains some of the finest carvings from the site, as well as a history of the region, and finds from other sites in Lower Isaan.
For more information the two albums and their contents are written up on their respective pages, and I hope this work will help people understand the cultural history of the region, which still influences the culture and artworks of the present day. I have added the links to both the Thai and Cambodia sections of the website.