Battambang makes a good base for a number of interesting ancient temples nearby, including at Wat Banan and Wat Ek Phnom, plus sobering mementoes of the Khmer Rouge era at the hilltop pagoda complex of Phnom Sampeu and Kamping Poy reservoir.
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- Phnom Sampeu
Wat Banan, the best preserved of the temples around Battambang, makes a rewarding half-day trip combined with Phnom Sampeu (if you don’t mind the horribly bumpy 45min ride between the two, following a backcountry dirt track through the paddy fields); you could also include Prasat Yeah Ten in the same trip. The temple was consecrated as a Buddhist shrine, although scholars are uncertain who built it or exactly when it was completed, which could have been any time between the tenth and thirteenth centuries.
From the car park at the base of the hill, it’s a steep climb up some 360 steps to the temple, with five sturdy towers poking up out of the trees (which, alas, largely obscure the views). Numerous carvings survive – those on the central tower are the best – including a number of apsaras (most of them now headless), various figures bent in prayer a and couple of finely carved, if rather eroded, lintels.