Khiri Reach and GTZ have launched a community tourism website to promote the little-known 8th-10th century Khmer ruins of Sambor Prei Kuk in central Cambodia.
The website, www.samborpreikuk.com, was jointly funded by Khiri Reach, the not-for-profit arm of Khiri Travel, and GTZ (German Development Cooperation), which is financed by the German government.
The objective of the site is to stimulate tourism in the Sambor Prei Kuk area, which has over 150 easily accessible pre-Angkor temple ruins in a forest setting reminiscent of an Indiana Jones movie.
The majority of the people in the area subsist on less than two dollars a day. “Sambor Prei Kuk has magnificent temples,” said Frans Betgem co-founder of Khiri Travel. “We just need a flow of tourists to the area to help ease poverty. The website is a step in the right direction.”
Many of the villages in the area still rely on car batteries for electricity after dark.
On the website, visitors will find information about how to get to Sambor Prei Kuk from Phnom Penh or Siem Reap. Plus, information about the temples, simple village attractions, local villagers who act as guides, local festivals, how to book a visit, and an extensive reading list of recommended books.
Visitors to the Sambor Prei Kuk can inspect the ruins on foot or by bicycle. There are ox cart rides, a homestay project, and a simple handicraft and souvenir shop and restaurant built by the villagers.
In At Sou village near Sambor Prei Kuk there is a memorial building to a young Japanese UN peacekeeper who was killed in the area in the early 1990s when the UN was there to oversee nationwide elections. Despite the tragedy, the father of the peacekeeper returns each year to pay homage to his son and donates funds to support local health and education in the village.
Inspecting the ruins of Sambor Prei Kuk can be combined with visits to other community based attractions in the province. These include Santuk Mountain, the holiest in the region, Tonle Sap protected area and bird sanctuary, the Santuk Silk Farm and an inspection of villages specialized in stone carving and making rice noodles.
Since 2005 GTZ has worked with the Sambor Prei Kuk Conservation Project to establish craft training courses for seven villages in the area. Community funds now go towards temple conservation, supporting home businesses, maintaining signage, and the upkeep of the craft hut and information centre.
Betgem said: “The whole community tourism set-up at Sambor Prei Kuk is very charming. It has been made possible due to the great efforts of people such as Linda Oum of Khiri Cambodia and Visal Prom and Ngin Hong of GTZ.”