Just over the road from the entrance to Prasat Muang Tam is this information centre which also doubles up as a small museum with some wonderfully carved lintels found at the site plus a model of how Muang Tam would have looked like in its heyday.
There were five towers constructed on laterite bases forming two rows. The main tower was the largest and in the middle of the four minor towers. It represented Mount Meru, the centre of the universe. Unfortunately it collapsed due to the great weight of the structure. It was the same style as the smaller towers and had an antechamber. It contained a Shiva linga, a phallic symbol of Shiva's creative power. Above the entrances of the smaller towers are lintels which are wonderfully carved.
The courtyard is situated between the outer wall and the gallery. There are four large L-shaped ponds which follow the shape of the outer wall. Each pond has a 5-headed serpent (naga) which forms a rail around the ponds.
The outer wall and archways are made of rectangular laterite blocks topped with finials. Doors were situated in the middle of each outer wall and were made from carved sandstone. There are eight lotus petals engraved on the floors of the doorways which represent the plan of the universe, purity and good luck.
Situated around 7km to the south of Phnom Rung, the Angkorian site of Muang Tam is a very worthwhile spot to visit and explore - especially given its proximity to the far grander Phnom Rung.
Built under the command of the Khmer Jayavarman V in the late 10th and early 11th centuries, Muang Tam is not nearly as spectacular as Phnom Rung, but that's not to say it isn't worth visiting.
The primary deity was Shiva, although Vishnu was also worshipped there. Like most Khmer temples, Muang Tum is orientated towards the east. It has a flat concentric plan, with a central sanctuary and two libraries surrounded successively by an inner enclosure, ponds, and an outer enclosure. The ponds between the enclosures are an unusual feature of the temple, as is the central sanctuary, which is not elevated and has its towers arranged in rows of three and two rather than in a quincunx. All the towers except the central one have been restored.
Open: 7am-6pm. Admission: 30 baht.
To the southwest of the principal tower is a minor sanctuary or Prang Noi. Inside there is a sandstone altar for holding a sacred image. Its pediment in the east depicts Krishna lifting a mountain among floral motifs.
Two Bannalais lie to the southeast and northeast of the principal tower. The buildings are rectangular and have only one entrance. They were built in the last period, around the 13th century, and used as a library for holy scriptures.
The principal tower was constructed from pink sandstone and has a square plan. Double porches were built in the north, south and west. To the east is a rectangular room called the Mandapa (or antechamber) which is connected to the tower by an annex. It is believed that the tower was built by Narendraditya in the 12th century. Inside the inner sanctum, is assumed to have enshrined the linga - a phallic symbol of Shiva. The entrances have various lintels and icons depicting Hindu religious stories, e.g. the dancing Shiva and the five Yogi's.
The inner galleries were built as the wall around the principal tower. The galleries are long, narrow rectangular rooms divided into cells. The inner galleries have arched gateways on all four sides. The outer walls of the galleries were carved as false windows. The pediment over the doorway of the eastern gallery was carved with the sculpture of a hermit who is assumed to be an avatar of Shiva as the healer.
The Processional Walkway leads to the first of three naga bridges. The five-headed snakes face all four directions and are from the 12th century. This bridge represents the connection between heaven and earth. The naga bridge leads to the upper stairway, which is divided into five sets.
To the north of the first cruciform platform is a rectangular structure facing south. The remains of eight sandstone pillars were the foundations of the base of the pavilion. The building used to be called "White Elephant House" but is now known as the "changing pavilion" because it is believed to have been used by kings and royal family members for changing attire before the performing rituals.
Connecting the first cruciform platform and the first naga bridge, the 160m long processional walkway is paved with blocks of laterite and bordered with sandstone. Seventy sandstone posts with tops of lotus buds are set along the way.
The lower stairway leads from the eastern slope of the hill to the first cruciform platform. It was built of laterite and divided into three levels. The platform is paved with blocks of laterite assumed to be the base of the outer gateway which was constructed of wood with a tile roof.
Phnom Rung is a Khmer temple complex set on the rim of an extinct volcano at 1,320 feet above sea level, about 20km (12 miles) south-east of Nang Rong. It was built in sandstone and laterite, in the 10th to 13th centuries, as a Hindu shrine dedicated to Shiva, and symbolises Mount Kailash, his heavenly dwelling. The name "Phnom Rung" is from an ancient Khmer word "Vnam Rung" meaning "the vast mountain".
As with the Khmer ruins of Phimai (near Khorat), it is suspected that Phnom Rung may have been a prototype for what eventually became Angkor Wat. Once built it was also used as a resting spot for pilgrims making their way from Angkor to Phimai.
The temple is the largest and best restored in Thailand (the restoration took 17 years to complete). The entire complex is built facing the east which, as with most Hindu monuments, usually face towards the dawn. The long promenade leading to the main temple is the best of its kind in Thailand and is the site of a large festival in mid April. Once at the western end of the promenade you reach the first naga bridge which is sided by spectacular five headed nagas. They are still in good condition and are identical to those which are found at Angkor Wat in Cambodia. At the top of the stairs is the gallery which leads into the primary sanctuary. The sanctuary has gallery entrances from the north, south, east and west, all of which display spectacular and intricately carved masonry depicting Hindu legends.
Open: 6am-6pm. Admission: 50 baht.
There is a large reservoir located just to the north of Prasat Muang Tam. It measures 510m by 1090m and is 3m deep. It represents the ocean surrounding Mount Meru, home of the Hindu gods.