Kampong Thom Temples
Kampong Thom (pop 32,000)
Kampong Thom Province
January 27, 2019
Hello from Central Cambodia,
I visited two Buddhist sites here in Kampong Thom.
Phnom Santuk is a cultural and natural site located in Ko Koh village, Ko Koh commune, Santuk district, about 17 kilometers south of the Kampong Thom provincial town.
The ancient carvings and the modern pagoda are located on the top of the mountain. (I learned in my research that the Khmer word “phnom” means “mountain.”)
Shall I climb the 800+ steps to the summit? Or just take a taxi.
The rugged pagoda site is quite colorful and diverse. A tall modern steel pagoda and a variety of carvings are the main attractions. Ever watchful and hungry-eyed monkeys patrol the grounds where local folks stop for a snack or spread out a picnic.
The security guards notice my curiosity and my serious purpose, so they usher me to a staircase that heads down the side of the mountain. There I find centuries-old rock face carvings of the Buddha reaching Nirvana. The largest, Preah Bat Chan Tuk, is more than ten meters (33 feet) long and dates to the Sixteenth Century.
Thousands of pilgrims visit the Buddha every year. Yet for the moment I am alone and enchanted by this peaceful overlook and heavenly peak.
Back in town I visit the Wat Kampong Thom, also known as Wat Indrisamorova, a large and colorful complex of temple buildings and statuary.
The carvings and statues depict both spiritual themes and the daily life and culture of this agricultural area.
And once again I am drawn to “something different.” Off to one side of the attractive and well-kept grounds sits a large but old and unkempt building. There’s a short staircase in front that I am obliged to climb. Inside I find an open space that appears to be a dining area for the monks.
But what a surprise! Enormous paintings and frescos decorate the walls and the ceiling! The artwork portrays the life of the revered Buddha and his adoring followers. But I also notice small yet significant portraits of the highly respected previous political and military leaders of Cambodia.
My curiosity is rewarded once more when I climb an interior staircase and find another creaking door that leads to a balcony. What a view!
Again, at this temple, I am almost alone. No rogue monkeys here. Only curious cats who eye me with suspicion as I cross their jealously guarded territory