One of Thailand’s remotest and least visited Angkor period temples, yet it’s very remoteness, jungle setting and total lack of tourist development are exactly what made it a great little temple to visit. It’s missing the grandeur of Phnom Rung, the photogenic lily-ponds of Muan Tam and the well preserved carvings of Sikhorapum but Ta Muan is an interesting enough temple and certainly an atmospheric site.
Great shame that the current border squabbling, (if you can still call it ‘squabbling, after heavy artillery fire and over 10 deaths), has spread to this quiet backwater but with the black uniformed border patrol at the northern entrance to the temple and the Khmer flip-flop clad troops a mere 10m from the southern rampart it always had the potential to be a flash-point, even if things in that part of Surin had been quiet until now. (Though we do remember Hun Sen being abruptly turned down a year or so back when he suddenly announced his intention to visit Ta Muan in person!)
The above is the Khmer border seen from the temple’s southern entrance. We understood the temple itself is in Thai territory and weren’t aware that particular section of frontier was in dispute but……The respective border checkpoints are approx. 200m apart though so Ta Muan (Tom) did appear to be in de facto no-man’s land stuck between the 2, but when we visited a year ago Khmer and Thai soldiers were sitting around chatting.
Ta Muan is actually 3 seperate, but adjacent sites: Ta Muan Tom – the larger, sandstone Suryavarman I period temple right on the border, Ta Muan Toch – a Jayarvarman VII era ‘hospital chapel’ a km or so down the road and nearby to that and contemporary with it, what appears to be a ‘fire temple’ named simply Ta Muan.
Slightly complicated but indicating that Ta Muan was a relatively important site for a lengthy period during the Angkor Empire being situated at a pass in the Dandreks and on the road from Angkor to Phimai. Sadly reports do indicate recent damage and sadly we’re not sure when we’re going to be able to visit this evocative site again! Our ‘Emerald Triangle’ tour will now be restricted to Phnom Rung and Muan Tam, both of which are far enough away from the border, for the foreseeable future.
For an interesting, and we feel very valid, Khmer perspective on the current troubles check out this link!