Phnom Chisor: 13 Sep 2003


Phnom Chisor

55 kilometers south of Phnom Penh is the temple-topped hill of Phnom Chisor. Here sits the ruins of an ancient 10th to 11th century temple, around which newer temples are built.


412 Steps Up

There are two entrances to the hilltop temples. The steeper southern entrance being more popular with local worshippers and tourists, is also more popular with touts and beggars. It is a grueling 412 steps up to the temples, and the local kids will act as "guides", counting down the number of steps for you as one ascends.


Green Moat

After the challenging 412 steps, one will be "greeted" by the entrance-fee collector. At two USD per head, you will then be granted permission to proceed further. This algae-filled lily pond is one of the first feature to be seen on reaching the end of the steps.


Facing Phnom Penh

The summit of Phnom Chisor stands a platform with a single spire. Just below which is a holy pavilion, this being guarded by these two Nagas. The Nagas are facing northwards towards Phnom Penh.


Food Sellers

The temple is crowded with worshippers, as many are there to give offerings for Dak Ben, the lead-up worship ceremony to the coming Pchum Ben festival.


Best Seats in the House

[ click on the picture above for a panoramic view of the plains beyond ] 

The main temple stands at the eastern side of the hill top and the view from here is spectacular. Flat plains that extends beyond the furthest the eye could see, with a few distant mountains breaking the monotony.


Holy Place with a View

Constructed of laterite and brick, with carved lintels of sandstone, the main ancient temple complex is surrounded by a 2.5 meters-wide gallery with windows.


In the Heart

Inscriptions found here date from the 11th century, when this site was known as Suryagiri.


Doors to Within

The wooden doors to the sanctuary in the centre of the complex, which open to the east, are decorated with carvings of figures standing on pigs.


Kids At Play

Many children have sacrilegiously made this ancient holy place their playground. The many broken windows offer hours of fun going through them as they chase each other.


The Inner Sanctum

Inside the sanctuary is the home to many statues of the Buddha and phallus. The ruins have temple has suffered from years of neglect and looting, but the main destruction was from aerial bombing by the Vietnamese and Americans over the warring years.


Hanuman's Temple

In the sanctuary are small temples dedicated to the various Hindu Gods and deities. This one is dedicated to Hanuman, the Monkey God.


At A Corner

Surprisingly, many remaining ancient artwork carvings and inscriptions are still in relative good condition.


Facing East

On the plains to the east of Phnom Chisor are the sanctuaries of Sen Thmol and Sen Ravang, and the former sacred pond of Tonle Om. All three of these form a straight line from Phnom Chisor in the direction of Angkor. During rituals held here some 900 years ago, the Brahmans and their entourage would climb up to Suryagiri from this direction on a monumental stairway of 400 steps.


Window View

Tramping on 1000 years of ancient civilisation, time has somehow remained frozen here. The awe of how magnificent this temple, and the ancient Angkor Civilsation as a whole, once was could easily be appreciated.


Northern Entrance

The northern entrance, unlike the southern, is peaceful as there are no touts or beggars to harass you. The climb here is also less tedious as the gradient is milder and it offers better views of the surrounding countryside.



On the northern slopes of Phnom Chisor are active granite quarries. Men and women labour in the hot sun, chiseling away parts of the hill away for this precious construction material.



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