A hill top temple with the same layout as Phnom Bok, also built by Yashovarman I, Phnom Krom’s temple may be less spectacular today due to its more ruinous state, but the vantage point overlooking the Tonle Sap Lake provides a good reason to visit.
As you can’t see the temple from ground level, the vast majority of visitors who head out for a tour of the lake to Chong Kneas floating village or arriving by ferry into Siem Reap are oblivious to the site.
Phnom Krom sits within a 50-metre-square enclosure, upon which are three ruined sandstone towers on a north-south axis. Running from north to south the towers are dedicated to Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma.
Partly due to age, partly due to the use of sandstone and partly due to the prevailing strong winds that blow off the Tonle Sap, the decorative works throughout this site are in very poor condition. Nevertheless, the site is not a complete loss as the views — all 360 degrees of them, taking in the Tonle Sap to the West Baray — are absolutely magnificent, especially when the lake has flooded and creeps up ever closer to the foot of the hill. The best time to visit is late afternoon.
Phrom Krom can be accessed by either a long, steamy and sweaty climb up the stairs, or by road in a car or by motorbike. On the road there is also a lookout point halfway up. A temple pass is required to make the ascent.
It takes about 20 minutes by tuk tuk to get here from Siem Reap. Most visitors driving down this road are headed to the port for a boat trip to Chong Kneas, which is a stone’s throw from the base. If visiting on a bike or in a tuk tuk, it is worth doing a loop circling the base of Phnom Krom. Not only will it provide an escape from the mass tourism mayhem at Chong Kneas, but it provides an opportunity to visit a village for a quick insight into local life, with rice paddy one side and the lake to the other. Cars and buses can’t fit on the track and few tourists do this.
To extend your visit to Phnom Krom – if you’re not visiting Chong Kneas – grab a drink and enjoy a sway in a hammock in one of the many local restaurants on stilts located on the road leading up to Phnom Krom (you won’t be able to miss them). Depending on season, on the right hand side there will be fields of lotus flowers which are picture worthy. There is also a Lotus Farm, from fair trade textile company Samatoa, which provides a short educational diversion.