Photo: The scenery at Phrom Pros and Phnom Sray.

Phrom Pros and Phnom Sray

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Two hills face one another in a near stand-off, each topped with their own pagodas: The rather lovely, grand and ornate pagodas on top of Phnom Pros (Men’s Hill), and a rather shabbier cluster on top of Phnom Srei (Women’s Hill). But Phnom Srei is higher, which may have prompted the pagoda version of compensatory overachievement on the other side of the gulf between them.

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Reach for the sky at Phnom Pros.

Reach for the sky at Phnom Pros.

This is another Kompong Cham sight with Oedipal undertones. According to this version of the legend, a powerful man returns from journeys afar, and falls in love with a woman who is his mother. She protests his suit for marriage, and comes up with a cunning compromise.

The men and women of the town are to separately construct two hills. If the women’s hill is higher, then she will no longer have to accept her suitor-son’s proposal.

Though the earth is pretty lovely too.

Though the earthbound places are pretty lovely too.

And so they set to it. But the women had a plan, and mounted a lantern high. The men, seeing the light, mistook it for Sirius and lay down their tools. More fools them.

At the top of 308 steps, Phnom Srei offers splendid views over the countryside with Kompong Cham and the Mekong easily visible, while further in the distance the rising plateau of Mondulkiri can be seen. Atop the hill there is a small temple but the whole area feels a little unkempt.

It's only 308 steps, we're told. A breeze on 40 degree day.

It’s only 308 steps, we’re told. A breeze on 40 degree day.

Phnom Pros is far smaller than Phnom Sray but the trio of tall temples abutting each other have been built at the summit in an attempt to compensate for the hill’s small size. Unlike Phnom Srei, Phnom Pros is overrun with fat monkeys and vendors will happily sell you ambulant to feed them. Phnom Pros is a popular spot to have your fortune told, though you’ll need pretty good Khmer language skills to get much out of it. Phnom Pros is also more heavily trafficked by locals by the ease of its access.

Phnom Pros from Phnom Srei.

Phnom Pros from Phnom Srei.

Between the two hills (which are walking distance apart) there is a new garish wat, a library and a Chinese cemetery. The library has a selection of mostly Khmer books, with a particular emphasis on fortune-telling handbooks — the curator here speaks fluent French. A sculpture garden is attached, with a large Bayon-style head, anatomically correct deer and various other temple paraphernalia. A wide range of legends surrounding the building of these two hills exist, most of which centre around the men being stupid, lazy or generally slack, thus allowing the women to build a bigger hill — ask your motodop for his interpretation on the legend, and don’t expect the same tale from any two.

On the grounds below, where things can get a little bit kooky.

On the grounds between the temples. .

What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Kompong Cham.
 Check prices, availability & reviews on Agoda or Booking
 Read up on where to eat on Kompong Cham.
 Check out our listings of things to do in and around Kompong Cham.
 Read up on how to get to Kompong Cham, or book your transport online with Camboticket.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Kompong Cham? Please read this.
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Where to next?

Where are you planning on heading to after Kompong Cham? Here are some spots commonly visited from here, or click here to see a full destination list for Cambodia.

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