Phnom Sampeou

Phnom Sampeou

Battambang's killing fields

More on Battambang

Just 12 kilometres southwest of Battambang, a strange protrusion is the site for a pretty hilltop pagoda complex from which gorgeous views across Battambang’s green fields and distant hills can be enjoyed as a reward for making the hard slog up the steep hill, and for confronting one of the more dire elements of the Khmer Rouge era.

Travelfish says:
Oh so pretty. Photo by: Nicky Sullivan.
Oh so pretty. Photo: Nicky Sullivan

The pagoda and its grounds are home to a group of monks and also to some rather cheeky monkeys you’d do well to steer clear of—they can get aggressive.

The steps up are precipitous and there are lots of them, roughly 700. Follow the winding path rather than the stairs, which can be butt-destroying. Alternatively, guides with motos could also zip you up (we promise we won’t think you’re a cheat). The route is just as heart-pounding, if distinctly less aerobic than doing it under your own steam. Children, some of whom speak very good English, hang around the base of the temple and will walk up with you and act as your guides if you ask.

Remains found at the bottom of the caves and cliffs of Phnom Sampeou. Photo by: Stuart McDonald.
Remains found at the bottom of the caves and cliffs of Phnom Sampeou. Photo: Stuart McDonald

Phnom Sampeou may well still have some unexploded ordnance and/or mines lying around, so keep to the tracks! In addition to the caves and pagodas, you’ll also find more morbid military mementoes on the top level two anti-aircraft guns—one from (most likely East) Germany and one from Russia—which belonged to government forces fighting the Khmer Rouge during the 1980s. These are just in front of the local vendors from whom you can pick up some refreshments.

More refreshments, and snacks, and caves are back at the bottom. If you’re there late afternoon, we recommend hanging around until about 18:00 when millions of bats evacuate the caves at the bottom of the hill, creating a dark, fluid ribbon ... Travelfish members only (Full text is around 200 words.)

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Reviewed by

Nicky Sullivan is an Irish freelance writer (and aspiring photographer). She has lived in England, Ireland, France, Spain and India, but decided that her tribe and heart are in Cambodia, where she has lived since 2007 despite repeated attempts to leave. She dreams of being as tough as Dervla Murphy, but fears there may be a long way to go. She can’t stand whisky for starters. She was a researcher, writer and coordinator for The Angkor Guidebook: Your Essential Companion to the Temples, now one of the best-selling guidebooks to the temples.

Tours in Cambodia



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