Prasat Prei is an easy temple to visit. It’s just north of the Preah Khan Temple, slightly towards Neak Pean – on the opposite side of the Grand Circuit road. The trick is that being completely surrounded with trees and having only a shoddy dirt road leading to it, it’s a bit tricky to find. Prasat Prei is a small, insignificant ruin which doesn’t attract anybody. Not even the more determined explorers who do embark on a more thorough exploration of the Grand Circuit venture off to pay Prasat Prei a visit. This could be attributed to both its insignificance as well as difficulty to find. As a matter of fact, it took me several goes before I found the right dirt road which lead to the temple as there is neither a sign nor any other indication telling you that there are some hidden ruins if you go down this path.
The dirt road that leads to Prasat Prei (as well as Banteay Prei, which is just a few hundred meters further north down the same dirt road) is not heavily trodden. It’s probably nothing more than a shortcut to some remote field of rice somewhere beyond the horizon these days, which makes thinking that there could be something worthwhile if one was to swing down there improbable. And truth be told, there really isn’t a big payout to paying Prasat Prei a visit either. However, because it is not a big detour at all, you could easily add two extra lines to the list of visited Angkor temples if you did go for it and tried a dirt road to the north of Preah Khan.
Prasat Prei is a big time ruin. Central tower was restored a bit, but then the restorations were abandoned because the ruin just wasn’t attracting any tourists. The rest of the temple now stands there as a pile of unorganized rocks. Furthermore, built as a Buddhist temple, Prasat Prei is oriented to face the east, so if you reach it in the afternoon (like I did), you’re gonna end up having the sun creating strong backlight making a chance of a decent photograph an impossibility. Still, aside from the need to look for the right dirt road to take (which will likely result in a few there and backs because you took the wrong one which lead to nowhere), visiting Prasat Prei is easy and requires very little energy. No traffic also means no touts so you can use this temple to take a much needed break from this hellish nuisance.
Prasat Prei, whose present day name allegedly means “the temple of the forest” was built in Bayon style by Khmer king Jayavarman VII. Restored central tower features lintels with some carvings and corners adorned with Apsara dancers. Because there isn’t all that much that still stands to explore at Prasat Prei, one only needs a few minutes for this temple and can move further north to reach its even less visually appetizing neighbor – Banteay Prei.