Cambodia // Phnom Penh and around //

Phnom Chisor and around

Originally known as Suryadri (“Sun Mountain”), Phnom Chisor 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 halfway up in which to rest, and refreshment-sellers on hand at the top and bottom. A modern pagoda is established at the summit and there are a burgeoning number of sanctuaries scattered about. One of the more interesting, to the right from the top of the steps, is Prasat Preah Ko Preah Kaew, containing images of the cow and small boy from which it gets its name: according to one far-fetched legend, also repeated at the Preah Ko shrine in Lovek, despite having been warned not to, a pregnant woman climbed a mango tree to eat some fruit, and fell; the shock induced labour, and from her womb emerged a baby boy and a cow.

At the far, northern, end of the hill, the ancient temple of Prasat Boran still retains some well-preserved carved sandstone lintels. The temple was built opening to the east, from which side you get a good view across the plains to Angkor Borei. From the eastern doorway, the old entrance road leads straight to the foot of the hill and still retains its two gatehouses. In the entrance, two stone basins are filled with water, which is ladled out for blessings using a couple of large seashells. The achars say the basins used to fill naturally – presumably from a spring – but after a US bomb came through the roof of the central sanctuary in the 1970s (thankfully it didn’t explode) this stopped; to this day the roof remains covered with corrugated iron. The internal doors to the central sanctuary are very fine and decorated with images of Shiva standing on the back of a pig – although no one knows why. To the east a path leads around the hill to a small cave shrine, really more a collection of rocks, but containing enough room for two or three people to squeeze inside the crevice. An achar here dispenses blessings for a consideration, and will sell you one of his handkerchiefs decorated with holy symbols for protection and prosperity.