Phnom Santuk

Truly Cambodian

Photo of Phnom Santuk, , Kompong Thom

What we say: 3 stars

This hilltop pagoda with an active monastery embodies both the good and bad of modern Cambodian culture. It has a beautiful view from the top of the wat, as well as friendly English-speaking monks keen to have a chat and Cambodian teens interested in practising the English skills they learn in school. It also has kitschy statues of poor quality located along the 980-step path to the top of the hill and an abundance of elderly and child beggars, whose requests can become a bit relentless.

Some portions of the path are quite steep, so be prepared to feel a little out of breath when you arrive at the peak. Steps are tile and must have been built in the relative recent past, with small, cement figurines of humans lining up along either side. There are a few places to stop and look along the way, with a couple of Buddha statues built into rocks and an outcropping offering a lovely view.

At the top is the main, gilded pagoda with white walls covered in Khmer script, surrounded by a series of figurines and small temples. Curved cement bridges connect various small temples and statues of people, horses, and gods. A large UFO-like structure rises up from the main lookout point with a statue of a man -- we were told by locals it's supposed to be King-Father Sihanouk in his youth. Macaques, as with most Khmer pagodas, wander lazily around the grounds, sifting for crumbs through rubbish left behind. Nothing -- beside the views -- is picturesque, but it's a popular spot for Cambodians and an opportunity to do-as-the-locals-do in Kompong Thom.

There are more interesting hills to climb in Cambodia, such as Phnom Bok and Oudong, but if you combine this with sites along the route such as Prasart Kok Rocha and the silk and carving village it is a worthwhile half-day out.

More details
About 15 kilometres southeast of town, off National Road 6
How to get there: A round-trip motorbike ride from Kompong Thom should cost about US$10 or $12 for a tuk tuk and takes approximately 30 minutes each way.
Last updated: 1st February, 2015

About the author:
Based in Chiang Mai, Mark Ord has been travelling Southeast Asia for over two decades and first crossed paths with Travelfish on Ko Lipe in the early 1990s.
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Phnom Santuk
About 15 kilometres southeast of town, off National Road 6
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Sights in Kompong Thom