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Introducing Wat Ek Phnom

An atmospheric, partly collapsed 11th- century temple, Wat Ek Phnom is surrounded by the remains of a laterite wall and an ancient baray (reservoir). A lintel showing the Churning of the Ocean of Milk can be seen above the eastern portal to the central temple. This is a very popular picnic and pilgrimage destination for Khmers, especially at festival times, and for women hoping to conceive.

On the way from Battambang by bicycle or moto, it’s possible to make a number of interesting stops. About 1.2km north of Battambang’s ferry landing is a 1960s Pepsi bottling plant, its logo faded but otherwise virtually unchanged since production ceased abruptly in 1975. You can still see the remains of the old production line (down an alley behind the cement water tanks) and, at the far end of the warehouse out back, thousands of dusty empties bearing Pepsi’s old logo.

Drive 700m further, and at the sign for the Islamic Local Development Organisation, turn left (west). After 250m you’ll get to a signless house, behind which is the Slaket crocodile farm. It’s open all day, including mealtimes: the crocs are always happy to have tourists for lunch.

Return to the main road and drive another 3.5km, past several wats, to the village of Pheam Ek, whose speciality is making rice paper for spring rolls. All along the road, in family workshops, you’ll see rice paste being steamed and then placed on a bamboo frame for drying in the sun. The coconuts grown in this area are said to be especially sweet. Wat Ek Phnom is 5.5km further on.

The nonprofit Cambodian Education Center in Pheam Ek, 13km from Battambang, provides free English instruction to local kids and is always looking for volunteer teachers (the Khmer staff are all volunteers, too). For details contact Racky Thy.

Wat Ek Phnom is 11km from Battambang’s ferry landing by the shortest route and 21km if you go via the Pepsi plant and Pheam Ek. Combining both makes for a nice 32km circuit.