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Phnom Krom

There was little appeal to Phnom Krom, the temple we visited in the afternoon 11 km south of Siem Reap, but the real pull was the trip itself.
Weaving by tuktuk along the winding roading heading south toward the Tonlé Sap lake, past traditional Khmer houses. Kids pedaling meditatively along on bicycles, shirtless men holding babies, talking to their neighbors, stacks of bricks, ponds of lotus flowers emerging.
Men fishing with their sons in the adjoining marshes, the stench of garbage and fermented fish paste, wedding preparations, wagons with chilied snails, sometimes brightly painted wood houses on stilts, thatch houses.
Old women sweeping their yards, the area under their raised houses, with thatch brooms. Phnom Krom is located high up on a hill, kind of shock from the utter flatness of this country.
Suddenly amazing views of the surrounding landscape emerge, the monster lake in the distance becomes increasingly visible as we rise, the patchwork of rice fields filled with water irrigated from the lake, a year-round water source since ancient times. Unlike other areas of Cambodia, the paddies shimmer emerald green, what with the constant supply of water.

This is the big hill that you see near the landing if you head to Siem Reap by bullet boat. The climb up Phnom Krom provided a marvellous view of the Khmer countryside. From here, you can see the row of houses on stilts lining the road to the great lake, and a landscape of green paddy fields awashed by the lake on the horizon.
The commanding view of the lake was used for a more practical, albeit more deadly, purpose in the fairly recent past as evidenced by a big gun mounted on the side of the hill and pointing toward the landing part of the Great Lake.

The temple at Phnom Krom consists of three prasats, or sanctuary towers, arranged north to south. The central tower is larger than those on its side, and is dedicated to the Hindu deity Shiva. The prasat on the north of it was dedicated to Vishnu while the one to the south to Brahma.

The 11th  century ruins are definitely in need of a facelift and it looks like they may get one at s0om e point as a sign in front states that a project is underway. Unfortunately, the same sign has made the same announcement with no results apparent since a year ago when I last visited the site.

Other structures within the temple enclosure includes halls, many of these in ruins today. Facing the three prasats are four smaller structures, the central two in stone while the outer two in bricks.

To get here, just follow Sivutha Street south out of Siem Reap. The road follows the river for much of the way and road is in good shape for most of the short journey. You will arrive at the base of the hill after just fifteen minutes and there is an archway and stairway that you take up about halfway, which leads to the spot near the big gun.


A  view from Phnom Krom at the Tonlé Sap Lake

From there you follow a small road to the temple area. You can actuallyride all the way up by going past the stairway, beyond the house and tree area, where you will see a long out-building off on the right side. Follow the small road that runs along side of the building and stay on this winding road to the temple area. There are drink and food stands at the base of the stairway to re-hydrate after the trip.


A view from Phnom Krom at the Tonlé Sap Lake

Phnom Krom is reached on the main road that runs south of Siem Reap. It is about 10km from the town. The path up the hill starts near the road, where your tuk tuk can park and wait for you to climb up. The climb takes about 15-25 minutes, depending on your speed. I would recommend that you combine the visit to Phnom Krom with the visit to Cheong Khneas.

If you are travelling on a packaged tour, then your itinerary is pretty much decided, and Phnom Krom might not be included. However, if you are travelling independently, then the best option is to hire a tuk tuk. Most tuk tuk should know how to go to Phnom Krom, as it is quite straightforward.

 

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