Phimai is one of the most spectacular ruin complexes in Thailand. It's located north west of Bangkok. The nearest big city is nakhon Ratchasima (Khorat) which is 60 km away. This page offers you how to get there and what to do next plus an introduction into Phimai Historical Park.
Phimai, a short introduction
The complex was build in the 11th and 12 the century but in the 13th century additions were made too. The old city is 565m by 1030m and some of the city walls are still visible. The name Phimai most likely comes from Vimaya which appears in the inscription of the door frame of the southern entrance of the inner city wall. The description dates back to 1108 AD.
According to information inside the Phimai Information Center, the complex was a model for the construction of Angkor Wat but apart of the wall plate inside the center, I have not been able to find any confirmation. It is however not impossible because parts of the Phimai complex are older.
There is however not much evidence of how Phimai or either the Khmer civilization came about in Thailand. The earliest pieces of evidence of Khmer civilization date back to 6AD and were found in and around Surin.
But regardless, Phimai was located at the end of the Ancient Khmer Highway from Angkor. The enclosed area is similar to Angkor Wat. The conclusion can be that Phimai must have been important to the Khmer kings. Interestingly, most of the buildings were built in Angkor Wat, Bayon and Baphuon, style. The Khmers were at that time Hindu while Phimai was build as a Buddhist temple (Buddhism in this area dates back to the 7th century).
Not all of the buildings are that old. The basins in the outer courtyard were probably constructed in the late Ayutthaya period (17th century). Just outside the Phimai complex, you can still see the remains of Meru Bhramathat chedi which were also from that same period.
I've visited Phimai twice. Although it is one of the largest archeological historical parks and a major tourist attraction in Thailand, at both visits there weren't many visitors. Therefore it's quite easy to walk through the temples and sit at the back enjoying the views of the complex.
Getting there and stay
Cycling to Khorat from Bangkok is not the most amusing thing to do. It's mostly highways you have to follow so I would advice to drop your bike and yourself on the express train to skip these 250 or so kilometers. You have to pay about B100 for getting your bike on the train (special cargo wagon).
Khorat has several good and cheap places to stay. I've been twice in the city and stayed twice near the night market, basic but OK for a night.
There are two ways to Phimai. One goes north to Khon Kaen. This is a highway but it's reasonable quiet. After 42 km you will find the junction to Phimai.
The other road leads east to Buri Ram (road #226). After about 30 km you will find the junction to Phimai. These are small local roads but the directions are all clear.
The town center of Phimai is located (for the most) south of the historical park. There are a few hotels in town, the best is probably the Phimai Hotel where I stayed for B400 in an excellent room. Restaurants are nearby, the hotel offers WIFI but an internet cafe is more difficult to find (walk out of the hotel and go left, first street right and after about 100m, you'll find one).
Some good food can be found around and at the night market.
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North East Thailand
Lesser visited by travelers doesn't mean less interesting. North East Thailand is especially interesting to cycle. Areas around Surin, Ubon and Mukdahan get travelers, here's why:
Khorat to Surin via Buri Ram, Phanom Rung and Muang Tam
An interesting route to cycle which lead to Phanom Rung, a Khmer complex that easily rivals some of the best temples in Angkor.
Cycling in Thailand
Of all Asian countries Thailand is probably one of the easiest, if not the easiest of all to start a bicycle adventure.
With plenty of people speaking English, good food, spectacular sights, beaches, diving, good weather, bicycle shops available and people used to "crazy" foreigner on bicycle, Thailand has "it"