Phnom Santuk

Northwestern Cambodia

Its forest-cloaked summit adorned with Buddha images and a series of pagodas, this holy temple mountain (207m) 15km south of Kompong Thom is a popular site of Buddhist pilgrimage. To reach the top, huff up 809 stairs – with the upper staircase home to troops of animated macaques – or wimp out and take the paved 2.5km road. Santuk hosts an extraordinary ensemble of colourful wats and stupas, a kaleidoscopic mishmash of old and new Buddhist statuary and monuments.

Near the main white-walled pagoda is pyramid-shaped Prasat Tuch, which features an intricately carved sandstone exterior. Just beneath the southern side of the summit, there are a number of reclining Buddhas; several are modern incarnations cast in cement, while others were carved into the living rock in centuries past. Phnom Santuk has an active wat and the local monks are always interested in receiving foreign tourists.

Boulders located just below the summit afford panoramic views south towards Tonlé Sap. For travellers spending the night in Kompong Thom, Phnom Santuk is a good place from which to catch a magnificent sunset over the rice fields, although this means descending in the dark – bring a torch (flashlight).

To get here from Kompong Thom, turn left (east) off NH6 at the well-marked sign at about the 149km marker. It's around 2km from the highway to the base of the temple stairs. From Kompong Thom, a return trip by moto costs about US$8, and a remork about US$10.

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