Cambodia // Phnom Penh and around //

Tonle Bati and Phnom Chisor

35km south of Phnom Pehn, peaceful Tonle Bati is set on the banks of the Bati River in a well-tended grove of coconut and mango trees, where you can swim and picnic as well as seeing the two small but appealing temples. You will be met immediately by a gaggle of young girls selling flowers, who will most likely follow you around until you leave, even if you’re adamant about not buying.

Another 30km south, Phnom Chisor, originally known as Suryadri (“Sun Mountain”),was built early in the eleventh century by Suryavarman I and was once a site of some significance, housing one of four sacred linga installed by the king in temples at the boundaries of his kingdom. A hot and tiring flight of 412 steps ascends the hill from the south, though there is a shady pavilion two thirds up, and refreshment-sellers at the top and bottom. There’s a modern pagoda at the summit and a burgeoning number of sanctuaries scattered about.

The villages east of Phnom Chisor weave very fine traditional hol, a patterned silk sampot traditionally worn during ceremonies. It’s worth buying a piece if you can find someone with a finished length, although this isn’t easy as most is produced to order. UNESCO is helping the weavers here relearn the use of natural dyes, a skill that was lost during the Pol Pot years.

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