Phnom Sampeau and hilltop temple in Battambang

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Phnom Sampeou is one of the most popular attractions in the whole of Cambodia. The hill rises sharply from the flat surrounding countryside about 14 kilometers south of Battambang, affording a great view of Battambang and the rest of the countryside.

>>Phnom Banan, Battambang

Sampeou mountain

Phnom Sampeou is a natural site located along National Road 57 in Sampeou Commune, Battambang district, about 12Kilometers of Battambang city. Atop a 100-meter-high mountain stands a pagoda and three natural caves: Pkasla, Lakhaon and Aksopheak. Pkasla cave is full of uprooted stones and is considered important because it is where Phnom Sampeou residents come to celebrate after a marriage.

Phnom Sampeou

This legendary 100 metres high mountain, topped by Wat Sampeou, contains 3 natural caves, lined with Buddhist shrines and statues: Pkasla, Lakhaon and Aksopheak. Pkasla cave is full of uprooted stones and is considered important because Sampeou inhabitants go there to celebrate after a marriage. Some caves were used by the Khmer Rouges as killing caves. Skeletons of their victims still remain in the caves. The wat is approached by a flight of 700 stairs.

Next to Phnom Sampeou are several important mountain clusters, including Phnom Kdaong, Phnom Krapeu(The Crocodile Mountain), Phnom Trung Moan, Phnom Trung Teat and Phnom Neang Romsay Sok. All are related to the Khmer Folktale titled Reachkol Neang Romsay Sok.

Phnom Sampeou

Wat Sampeou

The saddle-backed hill has temple complexes on both of its peaks. The temple on the slightly lower peak is built over a complex of caves, which are the focus of the grisly recent history. The temple’s prayer hall was used by the Khmer Rouge to house prisoners – the people that were considered educated, rich or just rubbed them the wrong way. The prisoners were interrogated, then thrown down into one of the caves. Those that didn’t die from the fall had no way out and so eventually died from starvation. Many of the bones of those that died are collected into two large cages in an adjoining grotto, which also has a reclining Buddha image.

Sleeping statue in Killing caves

The temple on the higher point of the hill is perched right on the edge of the cliff. The complex consists of several towering pagodas, all of which seem to be rather new. There are no bone collections here, but there are two gun emplacements that were used to help beat back the Khmer Rouge.

Admission to the hill area is US$2 for foreigners. You can either climb the 650 steps up to the top, or you can rent a motorcycle with driver for US$5. If you decide to go on foot, you’re technically required to have a guide.

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