Photo: Phnom Chisor views.

Phnom Chisor

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Despite being one of Cambodia’s most interesting Angkor-period temples outside of Siem Reap, Phnom Chisor is a sadly overlooked destination.

Perhaps second only to the view at Preah Vihear, Phnom Chisor’s hilltop setting provides wonderful views of the nearby Bassac River to the east and south to Phnom Da and Angkor Borei. On a clear day, you can even see Vietnam.

The view is a favourite with local cattle. Photo taken in or around Phnom Chisor, Takeo, Cambodia by Mark Ord.

The view is a favourite with local cattle. Photo: Mark Ord

Great for a day trip, this spectacular site is a mere hour and a half’s drive from Phnom Penh and a short hop from the well-preserved Jayarvarman VII temple of Ta Phrom at Tonle Bati, as well as the excellent wildlife rehabilitation centre of Phnom Tamao.

Although some of the brick towers may originate from an earlier date, the temple is generally dated to the early 11th century and the reign of King Suryarvarman I as one of his four cardinal point temples. Phnom Chisor marked the southern boundary of his empire, Ek Phnom in Battambang and Preah Vihear marked the west and north respectively, while the location of the east temple is unknown. The site is relatively small and compact but in reasonable condition, with many carvings remaining in situ. Brick, sandstone and laterite were all used in its construction and a monumental laterite staircase leads from the eastern entrance to the foot of the hill.

Intricate details at Phnom Chisor. Photo taken in or around Phnom Chisor, Takeo, Cambodia by Mark Ord.

Intricate details at Phnom Chisor. Photo: Mark Ord

From the foot of the staircase, a path heads east, interrupted after a short distance by an overgrown gopura or entrance gateway, known as Sen Thmol, which also boasts some excellent carvings. Around one kilometre from the foot of the hill is a second gopura, Sen Ravang, marking the main entrance to the old city. Just past here is the city moat and signs of the old earthen embankment. The rectangular outline can be clearly seen from the hill’s summit indicating just how large a settlement must have been located here.

From the two small carparks located at the south and north ends of the hill, concrete steps lead to the temple. Since the temple is located slightly below the summit to the northeast, it’s more convenient to ascend by the northern flight. The old laterite steps to the east are in reasonably good condition so, if time allows, you could descend that way to check out the gopuras. Back to the staircase and you can continue along the path at the foot of the hill past ancient sandstone quarries to the southern car park. The path leading anti-clockwise to the northern carpark is longer and more difficult, so if your driver dropped you off there ask him to pick you up at the other end of the hill.

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How to get there
Phnom Chisor is approximately 50 kilometres south of Phnom Penh in Takeo province, a couple of kilometres off Highway 2. Access tracks, one sealed, one not, lead from immediately north, and a short way south, of Wat Neang Khmao and the hill is clearly visible from the main road.

Phnom Chisor
50km south of Phnom Penh
Admission: $3 for foreigners.

Location map for Phnom Chisor

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