It is all about the journey
Published/Last edited or updated: 23rd February, 2019
Best visited if you have your own transport, three smaller sites of note, Prasat Phum Prasat and Tnaot Chum (east and west), are located to the southeast of Kompong Thom and can be visited in three to four hours.
It would be fair to describe these sites as obscure and unless you have a specific interest in seeing as many Khmer ruins as possible, you’d really be wanting to have some time on your hands to warrant heading out to them. That said, the journey is half the attraction, and certainly in the case of Tnoat Chum, it is a beautiful trip, offering you plenty of opportunities to practise your Khmer when you get lost along the way.
While we visited these by motorbike, you could also approach them by car or tuk tuk, though expect tuk tuk drivers to recommend using a car as it is around 30 km one way to the furthest point, much of which is on dirt roads, so not making for a great tuk tuk experience.
We visited all three sites in around three hours ex Kompong Thom, but we were really trucking—if you are riding at a more sane speed, allow four hours, though 15 minutes at each site should more than suffice for most people. If you have time, you could easily bundle these with Phnom Santuk and Kok Rocha, in which case you would need to best part of a day to explore the lot at a comfortable pace.
Prasat Phum Prasat (or “temple of the village where there is a temple”) is an impressive eighth century 12-metre tall brick tower in a pyramidal shape set within the grounds of a temple in Phum Prasat village. The tower boasts a spectacular and beautifully preserved lintel and finely carved columns flanking the doorway, with a small shrine within. It's located just a couple of hundred metres south of the main highway, the turnoff is approximately 30 kilometres southeast of Kompong Thom on the main highway. It is not clearly signposted.
Another four kilometres down the highway from the turnoff to Prasat Phum Prasat, on your right you’ll see the curiously located Domnek Resort, and just after that there is a turnoff to the west (right) which will lead you eventually to Tnaot Chum village. The road to the village is dirt and very pretty running past a river and stands of sugar palms—classic Khmer scenery. In wet season this could be a bit of heavy going.
It is around 4.5km down this road to reach the village which is home to two imaginatively named sites—Tnaot Chum East and Tnaot Chum West. On the way you’ll pass a scenically set riverside temple which is also worth jumping off the bike for a wander around.
Once you get to the village, locals should be able to point you to the two sites (they are roughly at the west and north extremes of the village), both of which are believed to be 7th century Sambor period temples. The west one is beside some playground equipment, with a lovely lintel laying by the side, while the east one is in far poorer shape but has standing figures carved into the brickwork. It was originally totally overgrown with trees, but most of the trees have been cut back to nothing.
If visiting these sites under your own steam, it is a good idea to download some offline maps as the phone signal, especially around Tnaot Chum, is a bit patchy. Though if you get lost, locals will know where you are headed! If doing these by tuk tuk expect to pay around $20 for both including waiting time—if you have time it makes sense to combine them with Phnom Santuk.
Please bear in mind that neither of these sites see many tourists and so present yourself accordingly. Do not ride your scooter fast in the villages and watch out for kids running out onto the dirt trails.
It is very easy to get lost, especially in Tnaot Chum village and suddenly find yourself riding into somebody’s backyard—a smile and a wave always helps in these situations. If there is a wedding going on, don’t be surprised when you get invited to joint the revelries.
Stuart McDonald co-founded Travelfish.org with Samantha Brown in 2004. He has lived in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, where he worked as an under-paid, under-skilled language teacher, an embassy staffer, a newspaper web-site developer, freelancing and various other stuff. His favourite read is The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.