The Thai and Khmer cultures have long lived side by side and created some of the most spectacular old temples such as the ancient temple at Phimai Historical Park. If you love old temples that hark back to a different time and a bygone age, Phimai is the ideal choice for you.
With an architectural style that is very similar to what you would find at Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the Phimai Historical Park has a real ancient feel and is one of the most impressive temple complexes in Thailand.
This stunning ancient temple complex is in the town of Phimai, in the Nakhon Ratchasima in the north-east of Thailand in between Bangkok and Khon Kaen.
Taking it Back in Time
Most of the buildings in the temple grounds were believed to constructed as long back as the 11th and 12th centuries, built in the iconic Bayon and Baphuon style the same as Angkor Wat by Khmer king Jayavarman VI.
The interesting fact is that during this period, the Khmer culture was mainly Hindu. What makes this temple unique is that it was a Mahayana Buddhist temple. There are reports that Buddhists were living in this part of the world as far back as the 7th century. Inscriptions found at the site reveal that the place was once called Vimayapura, which means Vimaya. The name evolved from that to the name Phimai that we see today.
Most Impressive Khmer Ruins in Thailand
The Phimai Historical Park as the reputation for being the most impressive Khmer ruins in Thailand for its significant architectural detail and the scale of the site. Everywhere you look, you will find intricate carvings of Hindu deities. The design elements used throughout the site are distinctive, especially on the prang tower, which later used at Angkor Wat.
Although as we have established, the temple built in the 11th and 12th century, it is believed to constructed on a site that was much older with an older fortified place that dates back to the 8th century.
The orientation of the temple is also a bit unique as most Khmer temples built facing west. However, Phimai is built facing south. Many believe the temple was built facing this direction to face the capital but has the temple doesn’t directly face Angkor, the theory has since debunked.
Phimai Temple Grounds
You enter the temple over an interesting cruciform naga bridge that is supposed to symbolise the passage from earth to heaven. Representations of serpent-like naga gods can be found right across Asia and go back to ancient India.
You then walk along a raised passageway that was once covered with a tiled roof, leading to the inner-sanctum of the temple and a jaw-dropping 28-meter high shrine that is built from white sandstone and coved with majestic Hindu carvings. Another part of the complex is the Prang Brahmathat, which is a stone sculpture that is a replica of the statue of the Angkor King Jayavarman VII that currently sits in the Phimai National Museum.
If you are visiting Phimai Historical Park and want a guided tour, you might find it a little tricky because many of the locals do not speak English. However, if you are visiting with a Thai friend or partner, some local students sometimes act as guides. Alternatively, there are some cool free brochures available that will give you a basic overview of the temple and its complex layout.
If you are a fan of ancient history and ancient temples, the site at Phimai Historical Park is not just one of the oldest and most impressive in Thailand, but also gives a sneak glimpse into life almost 1,000 years ago.
Map & More
Phimai Historical Park
Address: Ananthachinda Rd, Tambon Nai Mueang, Amphoe Phimai, Chang Wat Nakhon Ratchasima 30110
Phone: 044 471 535
Hours: 7am-6pm, visitor centre 8.30am-4.30pm
GPS Location: 12.9048921, 100.8959569