Stela with ancient inscription by Asienreisender

A stela with an ancient inscription (Sanskrit) in the museum of Angkor Borei. Image by Asienreisender, 2013

Statue of Angkor Borei by Asienreisender

This statue is probably the most prominent relict found at the Angkor Borei site. It shows very fine the dressing style of the ancient Funanese who used silk sarongs. The statue is a replica; the original is now in Paris. Image by Asienreisender, 2013

Phnom Da by Asienreisender

Phnom Da monument. In the dry season the trees loose their leaves and the tower is well to see from the approaching dam. In rainy season it's mostly covered. Image by Asienreisender, 2014

Phnom Da Temple by Asienreisender

The easter side of Phnom Da Temple with a false door. Image by Asienreisender, 2013

Inside Phnom Da Temple by Asienreisender

Inside Phnom Da Temple with the shrine in the foreground. Image by Asienreisender, 2013

Inside Phnom Da Temple, the collapsed roof by Asienreisender

The collapsed roof, partially a brick construction. Most of the temple's substance is of laterite. Sandstone was sparsely in use, only for the carvings of the lintels and other interior. Image by Asienreisender, 2013

Replica of an ancient Artefact at Phnom Da by Asienreisender

A replica of an ancient artefact at the entrance of Phnom Da monument. The two figures are already beheaded by people who sell the heads on the black market. There is much damage done at the monument. Image by Asienreisender, 2014

Fresquo in Phnom Da Monument by Asienreisender

A fresquo in Phnom Da monument. It's damaged and supports a bigger block of stone. Probably a replica. Though, lootings are rampant at ancient sites in Cambodia since the early 1990s; particularly since the demand for ancient artefacts is rising. Image by Asienreisender, 2014

Wat Ashram Moha Russei, backside, by Asienreisender

The backside of Wat Ashram Moha Russei. Image by Asienreisender, 2013

Houses in Angkor Borei by Asienreisender

Colourful houses at the canal banks in Angkor Borei. They look alike many houses in Malaysia. Images and photo composition by Asienreisender, 2014

'Sign to Oc Eo' by Asienreisender

Oc Eo was another Funanese city with a wall and a residence of a king in the mid 3rd century CE, as a Chinese source claims. Oc Eo lies about 80km southeast of Angkor Borei in nowadays Vietnam; both places were connected by a canal. Image by Asienreisender, 3/2016

Angkor Borei and Phnom Da


Angkor Borei

Nowadays a meaningless village close to the Vietnamese border, Angkor Borei was once among the first urban centers of Southeast Asia. If you come to Angkor Borei without knowing that it was maybe the first settlement in the whole world region, you wouldn't guess it. The contemporary little town is build mostly on the same ground as the ancient place was. About 6,000 people are living there today. It looks not any different here than in any other Khmer town.

Angkor Borei Museum

Angkor Borei Museum by Asienreisender

The small museum in Angkor Borei. A number of old artefacts are displayed here. According to the inscription in the pillar down left it's EU financed. Image by Asienreisender, 4/2014

Situated in the Mekong River delta, some archaeologists suppose that Angkor Borei was the capital of Funan, Southeast Asia's oldest civilization. Many Khmer consider Angkor Borei as the cradle of Khmer civilization.

Other historians rather think that Funan's capital was situated at another ancient town, Vyadhapura, not far away down in the Mekong delta (of unknown exact location), but behind the closeby border to Vietnam. Another possible candidate for Funan's capital was Oc Eo, also closeby in Vietnam. Might be that the capital changed over the time; might also be there was no capital of this civilization. There are dozends of ancient settlements in the Mekong delta, most of them are in nowadays Vietnam. The discussion about the site of the capital has also a superficial ideological implication; if the ancient Khmer had their center or origin in nowadays Cambodia or in nowadays south Vietnam.

Burial Site at Angkor Borei by Asienreisender

Angkor Borei was as a settlement inhabited since around 400 BCE. Other archeological traces date back to the neolithic. Some findings are displayed in the little frequented museum in Angkor Borei. Image by Asienreisender, 11/2013

However, historians still don't know what ethnic people the people of Funan were. It could have been early Khmer people already, but the Indian influence is dominant. The oldest dated artefact in Khmer script was found at Angkor Borei. It's from 611 CE.

The ancient town of Angkor Borei also played a role in Funan's successor, the empire of Chenla, from the 8th century on. Chenla was split into two parts. There was the so called 'water Chenla', which center was around here in the Mekong Delta, and there was a land based Chenla with it's geographical center further northwest in the inland.

The old Angkor Borei was surrounded by a six kilometer long city wall. That gave the place a cosiderable size. Remains of the wall are partially still there, partially they fell victim to modern construction activity in recent years.

The City Wall

The City Wall of Angkor Borei by Asienreisender

The rampart below the trees on the other side of the canal was part of the ancient city wall of Angkor Borei. Image by Asienreisender, 2014

More than twelve ancient brick buildings could be identified. Presumably they served religious purposes, as it was exclusively so for stone buildings in the pre-Angkorian civilizations and in Angkor itself. There was also a number of artefacts found in and around Angkor Borei. It's ceramics, sculptures, graves, stone inscriptions, coins and more. They are either in the little museum of Angkor Borei, in the National Museum in Phnom Penh or in Paris. Many of these artefacts were found in an ancient cemetery, which was situated in the middle of the walled settlement. The corpses were not cremated and there were burial goods found.

The archaeological research in Cambodia is mostly focused on the wider Siem Reap region with the classical Angkorian temples. Research in the Mekong Delta is neglected in Cambodia, although research in Vietnam is on a much higher level. That has to do also with the fact that very few Cambodian archaeologist survived the Khmer Rouge terror regime: it's said only four.

The Canal of Angkor Borei

Angkor Borei by Asienreisender

Angkor Borei at the banks of an old canal. Freighters unload goods near the bridge. Angkor Borei was connected by the canal to Oc Eo, another Funanese town of the time in nowadays Vietnam, some 80km southeast. The bridge leads to nearby Phnom Da. Image by Asienreisender, 4/2014

Phnom Da

Phnom Da is a twin hill, with two temple sites, three kilometers away from Angkor Borei. The bigger temple, a towerlike construction from the 7th century (according to other sources 6th century), is the main attraction. One has to walk up a stairway to reach the top of one of the hills, where it is placed. The building was, according to a Cambodian guide from Phnom Penh, originally built in brick. Later, in Angkorean times (10th / 11th century) it was overbuilt and extended. The used building material for the extension was laterite. The brick core is still to see from inside at the top. The roof of the building has been collapsed and is now open. The entrance door is facing to the north. As I heared it was the target for an American air raid in the Vietnam War.

The Temple of Phnom Da

Phnom Da Temple by Asienreisender

Phnom Da Temple, seen from the northern side with the entrance door. It's seventeen meters high and four times twelve meters in square. Image by Asienreisender, 11/2013

Inside the building there is only one big room with the remains of a shrine in the middle of it. The floor is just a clay ground, the walls naked stone. In one corner I saw a part of a relief, on top of it another bigger stone block, both half covert with dirt. A lot of litter is scattered around the whole place, inside and outside the monument. The site is clearly neglected.

The monument is commonly called 'Phnom Da Temple' or just 'Phnom Da'. Though, 'phnom' means mountain in Khmer language. It seems that the old name of the temple has fallen into oblivion.

In 1999 archeologists from the University of Hawai'i did a research at the site and dug for artefacts. Local people who saw that found it a good idea to follow the example in the hope to find something of value to sell on the black market.

A sitestep apart from the old monument is a viewpoint. The wider surrounding in the southeastern directions can be seen from here. That means in the monsoon to face a lot of water, but the lake is partially merely some centimeters deep. Here and there are bushes and treetops outreaching the water level. Geometrical shapes are recognizable. In the dry season the landscapes are fields, crisscrossed by water canals. The region is part of the greater Mekong River subregion, here bordering the Bassac River, a side-river of the Mekong.

The Mekong Delta around Phnom Da

The Surrounding of Phnom Da by Asienreisender

The flooded surroundings of Phnom Da. Although the southwest monsoon is already over, sometimes heavy rain and thunderstorms happen. The retreat of the water is slow. Image by Asienreisender, 11/2013

In the hill are also five caves, who served in the past for sacred purposes. In the Vietnam War they were also used as hideouts for Vietnamese fighters and maybe Khmer Rouge.

Wat Ashram Moha Russei

Wat Ashram Moha Russey / Asrom Moha Eysei by Asienreisender

Wat Ashram Moha Russei with resemblances to the temples on the Dieng Plateau in Java. Since Angkor's predecessor was a tributary vassal of the kingdom of Java, there was a close relation between both regions established, although the geographical distance is considerable. Image by Asienreisender, 11/2013

From the main monument there is a small track leading to nearby Wat Ashram Moha Russei (or: Asrom Moha Eysei). This is a nicely restored Hindu temple from around 700 CE. It is much smaller than the other monument, but, probably due to the restoration work, gives a much better impression. Approaching the entrance door on a short stairway, it leads to an inner chamber with the central shrine. The shrine is separated by two walls from the outside. Between the two walls there is a narrow gangway which surrounds the inner room with the shrine completely.

The shrine is still in use as such and decorated with sacred attributes. Nevertheless there is litter around the site, even in the gangway.

This small temple looks remarkably unusually and does not match what we see in Khmer architecture at other sites in Cambodia. There are hints that the temple represents a combined architectural style from the Dieng Plateau in Java as well as from south India.

Behind Wat Moha Russei leads a small jungle path steeply up the hill to the top. Another path leads downwards to the dirt road which is connected with the entrance to the site at the pier. If you do the walk in the way as described, you enter the site at the pier and get cashed by the shop owner at the entrance. An entrance ticket is two dollars for foreigners. If you pass by the entrance on the dirt road and turn left at Moha Russei you enter the site from the other side. There is no cashpoint.

A Ferry Service

Crossing a Canal on the Way from Takeo to Angkor Borei by Asienreisender

On the way from Takeo to Angkor Borei: this nutshell brings people and motorbikes over one of the canals. Image by Asienreisender, 2014

The Drive

Visiting Angor Borei is possible via a road all over the year. The route starts on a dam east of Takeo. The tour leads through rice paddies, splits up several times (no signs), get's smaller and smaller that one might wonder if that is really the correct way. At one point it is even in April still interrupted by a waterway. A small ferry is operating there - it's good for people, bicycles and motorbikes. Cars can not go here but have to take the (much) longer way via an elevated dirt road. This trip is very fine because it leads through the ancient cultural landscape and the surroundings look pretty much as they have ever looked, I guess.

Cultural Landscape in the Mekong Delta

The Mekong Delta between Takeo and Angkor Borei by Asienreisender

The Mekong Delta between Takeo and Angkor Borei in the dry season. It's a two thousand years old cultural landspape, seasonally flooded, seasonally tilled, with an extensive canal net. These plains are merely 2m above sea level; the higher elevations, exept mountains like Phnom Da, reach up to 10m. The drive through here is particularly exciting. Image by Asienreisender, 4/2014

Though, this approach from Takeo town is not passable in the monsoon. All the area around Angkor Borei and Phnom Da is flooded then. Reaching Angkor Borei on a road means then a wider detour on another road. Phnom Da therefore is not accessable via road in the rainy season. It becomes an island then. A boat trip is required.

There are small charter boats from Takeo pier to the sides. They follow a canal route which was probably built in the 1880s and then restored after 1979. The ride is pretty hard on these little boats, particularly when one has to sit on a bare board only and more when the wind causes high waves. If the wind is too strong the nutshell might capsize.

In the ancient times there was a road connecting Angkor Borei and Phnom Da with Phnom Chisor.

The Canal Access to Angkor Borei / Phnom Da

The Seasonal Lake around Angkor Borei and Phnom Da by Asienreisender

On the way between Takeo, Angkor Borei and Phnom Da. Although the whole area is flooded, the boats have to follow the canal. The route is marked with simple sticks with plastic pennants at it. Image by Asienreisender 11/2013

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Published on November 23th, 2013

158 | Angkor Borei

Last update on April 9th, 2016