Nakhon Ratchasima is the name given to the large north-eastern province situated in the heart of Isaan territory and known locally as Khorat or Korat. The town in the region bears the same name.
The province is steeped in history and a visit to some of the museums here will uncover a variety of interesting archaeological digs that bear witness to prehistoric Thailand from both the Khmer as well as the Dvaravati cultures.
Many Khmer ruins found here date back to the 12th-century with some of these sites having been lovingly restored to their former splendour. This area is also splendidly rich in nature with one forested national park filled with waterfalls, reservoirs and wildlife and another with important Khmer historical sites.
Khao Yai National Park is Thailand's first national park and the second largest park in the country. It covers a huge 2,168 square kilometre area of evergreen forests and grasslands. The park's waterfalls include the 80-meter tall Heo Narok falls and the Haeo Suwat falls.
The park is also home to a large number of exotic plants with some 320 species of birds and 67 species of animals. The animals include Asiatic black bears, Asian elephants, gaur, tigers, gibbons, Indian sambar deer, Indian muntjac, Dholes and wild pigs.
Prasat Hin Phimai National Historical Park is one of Thailand's most imposing sanctuaries situated in the heart of the ancient city of Phimai. Apart from being the largest sandstone sanctuary in Thailand, it is also the most important Khmer historical site in the country.
The park is open daily from 7:30 am until 5:00 pm with an admission fee of 40 Baht. It will take you approximately 90 minutes by car from Nakhon Ratchasima travelling in a northerly direction along highway 2.
The word Phimai meaning a religious figure or site appears in an inscription on a stone slab in the front doorway of the main building and other structures too. These structures are made of sandstone and laterite and are all ornately carved with intricate designs.
principal sanctuary is a tower or Prasat surrounded by four porches with an antechamber leading into each porch.
mystical creatures can be seen supported on the terraces of the pyramidal roof while some multi-headed
Naga serpent figures stand guard at these religious sites.
To think that parts of this historical park are actually older than Angkor Wat in Cambodia yet, fortunately, these ruins at Phimai have been magnificently restored and renovated. Unfortunately, the Khmer site in Cambodia has not seen much restoration work done as there is a serious lack of funds available.
I believe the Japanese have committed some contributions towards the upkeep. Because I have a fascination with all types of architecture, I was fortunate to have visited both sites in Thailand and Cambodia.
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