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Kampong Cham Province

Kampong Cham, the most populous province in Cambodia, is a gateway to Stung Treng, Rattanak Kiri and Mondul Kiri Provinces through the province of Kratie. This is a relaxed and quiet town that was once an important trading post during the French period; its legacy evident by the chastened yet classic buildings that are still standing in their full glory.  It carries plenty of colonial French characteristics and is a good place to enjoy the laid back atmosphere and quaint charm.

The ruins at Wat Nokor, an Angkorian temple dating from the eleventh century, contain a standard assortment of Angkor architecture. A visit to this site can easily be combined with a trip to the mountains of Pros and Srei.

The city boasts the first bridge to be built over the Mekong River in Cambodia. The Kizuna Bridge was constructed in Kampong Cham and at 1500 metres in length was the longest bridge in Cambodia until the 1900 metre Thai-Cambodian bridge was built in Koh Kong took its place in 2002.  The Kizuna Bridge links eastern and western Cambodia by road for the first time.

Places of Interest:

Nokor Bachey temple:
Nokor Bachey temple is a cultural and historical site. It is located 2.2 kilometers from Kampong Cham provincial town along National Road 7, about 122 kilometers northeast of Phnom Penh. Visitors traveling from Phnom Penh will see the gate to the pagoda on the right. The temple was built in the middle of the 11th century, during the reign of Suryavarman II and King Ouphey dedecating to Brahmanism. The temple is about 200 meters inside the gate. The site is accessible to almost all types of vehicles. The temple is divided as follow:

Tonle Om:
Tonle Om is a pond about 400 by 500 meters in area, about 300 meters east of the temple.

First Gallery:
The first gallery surrounds the temple. It is about 3 meters high and 2.5 meters wide. Today much of the first gallery has been damaged. Points of interest in the gallery include six lion statues at the entrance to the second gallery, eight statues of Naga behind the six lions, and two statues of Asura that guard both sides of the entrance.

Second Gallery:
The second gallery features two statues of Decho Dam Din, the commander of the army, two statues of Asura, and two ponds, both 20 meters square, located between the first and the second galleries. The ponds are full of lotus flowers and never dry up, even in the dry season.

Third Gallery:
The third gallery, wider than the first two galleries, has entrances on all four sides. This gallery includes statues of Vishnu with eight arms and the other with four on the either side of the main entrance.

Fourth Gallery:
The fourth gallery is constructed of laterite and was built like a room. It has eight entrances.

Once visitors reach the center of the temple, they will see a high sandstone peak topped with a statue of Buddha facing north, south, east and west. Nokor Bachey temple is one of large compared to other temples in Cambodia. It is the main gathering place for Kampong Cham province and other cities and province dwellers.

Phnom Pros Phnom Srei:
Phnom Pros Phnom Srei is located in Krala commune, Kampong Siem District, about 7 kilometers from Kampong Cham provincial town or about 144 kilometers from Phnom Penh.

Phnom Pros is a dull peak hill about 30 meters high. On the hill is a pagoda named Wat Sovankiri Rattanak Phnom Pros. It has a spot for vehicles to park at the top. The main temple is five peaks, constructed in the style of BAnteay Srei temple in Siem Reap. Another temple on Phnom Pros has two peaks and was constructed during the Sangkum Reastre Niyum regime of then-price Norodom Sihanouk. Near the temple is a 15-meter-high stupa, which was constructed by a monk named Keo Suor, who was the first head monk of the pagoda. A Kot is at the foot of the hill. From 1975 to 1979, during the Khmer Rouge regime, Phnom Pros was used as a prison and torture center.

About 1000 meters north of Phnom Pros, there is another higher hill with a sharp-pointed peak called Phnom Srei. There are also several smaller hills at Phnom Srei called Phnom Dangrek, Phnom Ly and Phnom Chhuk. Visitors can reach the peak by climbing 308 steps. At the top are the remnants of a destroyed temple. No monks live there, however, there is a Duan Chi who cares for the site and asks visitors for donations to rebuild the temple.

This site is popular with Cambodians during traditional festivals like Khmer new year and Pchum Bin. The top of the hill affords visitors a beautiful view of Kampong Cham province.

Preah Theat Teuk Chhar:
Preah Theat Teuk Chhar is a group of temples in Thmo Da village, Beung Nay commune and Thmei village, Krouch commune in Prey Chhar district, about 39 kilometers from Kampong Cham provincial town. Visitors can reach Preah Theat Teuk Chhar by taking National Road 7 from Kampong Cham, turn right at the provincial road and drive 13 kilometer before turning right again and driving another 5 kilometers along a canal trail, to the temple site.

The temples were constructed in AD 1005, during the reign of King Suryavarman I. As proposed by King’s adviser Chung Chheal, the King agreed to build these temples and Leaksintra started construction on the site called Sithiborya that which owned by the King, who also contributed money. Leaksintra, however, used his salesmanship to encourage the local people to contribute money as well, until the project was finished.

One of the temple houses s Shiva Lingam named Sreipatresvara, and two divinity statues called Paramesvara and Sarasvata at both sides. Another cavelike temple believed to house a god is located along a canal, near a waterfall. Badly damaged over the years, only one door frame remains today, and it is overgrown with vegetation.

The architect excavated a large pond on the right side of the temple called Leaksintrada. A golden Silva lingam was kept in the middle of the pond. Nearby, a village of wealthy people was formed. In addition, people from nearby villages were invited to live there, too, and the village soon became a crowded but cheerful town.

Leaksintra told the king of the new town, and the king went there to celebrate the town’s inaugurateion in AD 1025. He gave the city numerous gifts, including 29 soldiers and a rice field that surrounded the temple. He had ponds dug and a huge court built for festival celebrations, and he gave decorations for the temple. He named the site Leaksintrabot in honor of its architect, Leaksintra.

Later, the site became a place for religious worship. The religions practiced changed from King to King. Some kings practiced Brahmanism, while some practiced Mahayana Buddhism. Others were Theravada Buddhists, which explains why there are so many small temples at Preah Theat Teuk Chhar. All told, there are 551 small temples which are influenced by Brahmanism and Buddhism. Some of the temples contain statues of heroes who gave their lives for the nation.

Many of the temples were destroyed by years of war. Others were heavily damaged. Today, monks and visitors to the site search in hopes of finding the name and foundations of these temples so they might be rebuilt.  Some temples have been rebuilt already, their wood and tile roofing replaced with concrete.

Teuk Chhar:

Next to Preah Theat Teuk Chhar temples is a canal dug during ancient times. Water fills the canal year round, and the water is very clear and free-flowing, making it popular with tourists who enjoy bathing in it. At one time, there were many trees and plants along both sides of the canal, but they were removed to make a big plain, where the water flows alongside the main temple.

Today, the ancient pond designed by Leaksintra is a vast source of water that is contained by a dam built serval years ago. The water that fills the canal flows south from Kampong Cham province, pass the temple and into the big slit, which for many years has been full of water that irrigates the rice fields of nearby villages such as Kroch village in Prey Chhar district.

Because the canal is old, the Ministry of Agriculture has built a dam to store water to supply thousands of hectares of rice fields in Prey Chhar district, Kampong Cham province and Baray district in Kampong Thom province.

The surface of Teuk Chha is 3 square kilometers. The water that fills it comes from about ten sources in the mountainous northeast and the plateau region, which is called Kbal Teuk. This basin has an average depth of 2 meters. The water flows through three channels. Any two of the channels can be closed at one time, allowing the water to flow into the third channel and into the dam.

The first channel is opened every day, and the rapidly flowing water sounds much like a waterfall, attracting many tourists. The second channel is opened only occasionally during festival days, therefore the water flow is not very strong. Water from the north channel flows only during the rainy season, because during the dry season, the water level is lower than the dam.

Because the canal of Teuk Chhar is angled like a carpenter’s tool, people can swim there. Since the water is clear, visitors can watch schools of small fish swimming in opposite direction of the water flow. In addition, the trees that line the canal bank hold many birds and provide shade and shelter to visitors. The cool climate along with the water and big trees that surround the ancient temple make this site popular with tourists and locals, who enjoy spending their holidays there. Thus, this place is very well known.

Nokor Knong-Krau Temple
Nokor Knong-Krau temple is an ancient site located in Prey Nokor Village, Dauntei commune, Ponnhear Krek district, about 42 kilometers southeast of Kampong Cham provincial town along National Road 7. Visitors can reach this site via five trails at Dauntei commune town: Khna, Preah Theat, Kandol Chhrum, Damnak Char and Prey Nokor paths.

Prey Nokor temple was built in the 9th century. Its design resembles Sambo Prey Kuk temple. In the 16th century, King Kon escaped to Prey Nokor to avoid being killed by King Sreisokunbot. While there, King Kon mobilized his own forces and eventurally defeated King Sresokunbot.

Prey Nokor Knong-Krau encompasses 2500 square meters. It includeds:
-    Thom temple
The site of an ancient temple is at the top of the hill. It includes three structures built of solid brick. One of the structures is no longer standing, while the other two remain, along with some ancient statues and other objects related to Brahmanism. A relatively new temple sits on the same terrace, not far from the ancient structures. Villagers who live near the site believe that the ancient temples are protected by magic objects, and if visitors do not pray to the objects, their photographs will not turn out.
-    Preah Theat temple
Preah Theat temple is east of Thom temple. It includes six ancient temples. Of these six, five were destroyed by war, and the remaining temple has nearly collapsed as a result of thieves digging for treasures. Northeast of Thom temple is Preah Theat pond. In ancient times this pond was a canal.
-    Koh Andet Koh Prak
Koh Andet Koh Prak is an island inside a pond, north of Prey Nokor village. It is 30 meters long and 20 meters wide. It is also known as Srah Teum.
-    The Rampart
The rampart surrounds Prey Nokor Knong-Krau city. It consists of a complex of wild bamboo that was planted to block access to the city. The rampart was originally 10 meters high and 15meters wide. It is now only 1.2-meter-high and 3-meter-wide. Each side is 2500 meters long. Some parts of the rampart have been damaged.

This ancient site is popular among animists and tourists who wish to pray and enjoy traditional games during traditional festival days.

Wat Preah Theat Thma Da Temple:
Wat Preah Theat Thma Da temple is an ancient iste located in Preah Theat Thma Da village, Preah Theat commune,  O’Rang Oav district, about 38 kilometers southeast of Kampong Cham provincial town. Take National Road 7 from Kampong Cham town, turn right at National Road 11 and continue on the O’Rang Oav district. The site is 8 kilometers down a dirt trail.

Wat Preah Theat Thma Da temple is 190 meters long and 160 meters wide. The temple includes Preah Theat temple and a pond that is 180 meters wide and 950 meters long. The water in the pond is very clear. It is called Tonle Sa Ngout. Along the entrance to the temple is another temple called Preah Vihear Preah Chul Nipean. At one time there was a statue of the reclining Buddha reaching nirvana, but the statue was stolen.

There are a number of statues in Wat Preah Theat Thma Da that local people worship. They include statues of Atitep Vero, Kongchak, Hekpous, Srei Krupleak, Tuosmuk and Ang Krong Pleung.

Behind the temple there is another hall Meru mena built during French colonial times. At the front door, there is a Meru with a lintel that is sculpted on sandstone. Much of it has been damaged. Inside Meru, is a sculpture of Haothi Neang Umaparvati, which the Brahmans worshiped. It is believed that if a coconut is dropped into the hole inside Meru, the coconut will appear in the middle of the pond. Meru was built on the site of an old temple.

Phnom Han Chey (Phnom Chey Kiri):
Han Chey or Phnom Chey Kiri is located in Han Chey village, Han Chey commune, Kampong Siem district, about 18 kilometers east of Kampong Cham provincial town on the northern part of the Mekong River. The distance by water is 20 kilometers.

The top of the mountain is reached by climbing 295 steps. On the top of mountain there is a pagoda and one temple known as South Kuk temple. Constructed of solid brick made of red clay, it is 7 meters square and 12 meters high. South Kuk temple was built in the seventh century during the reign of King Isanavarman I. Much of the temple has collapsed. Next to it is a second temple made of sandstone. It is 2 meters cubic in circumference and has a roof.

At the foot of the mountain, there is another temple made of basalt called Neang Khmao temple or Noth Kuk temple. It is 7 square meters. Today this temple is near collapse, because it has not been maintained.

Many tourists visit these sites. Many foreigners prefer to come by water, and they often travel in groups. Phnom Han Chey is 63 meters high and offers tourists beautiful views of the countryside and the Mekong river from its summit.

Phnom Cheung Prey temple:
Phnom Cheung Prey, which has a long history and beautiful scenery, has become a popular destination for tourists. It is located in Rovieng village, Rovieng commune, Chueng Prey district, about 56 kilometers west of Kampong Cham provincial town. It is only2 kilometers off National Road 7, on a gravel trail.

Most visitors who visit Phnom Cheung Prey believe that the hill has a magical object. Local villagers are very superstitious about  the hill, and they pray at the temple on top of it. Mr. Meun Met, a 40-year-old astrologer and traditional medical practitioner, said that, based on his observations, most visitors come from Phnom Penh, while only a few come from Kampong Cham provincial town and nearby districts. Most of these people, Meun Met said, come for medical treatment and to pray to the spirits, such as Neakta Krahom Ko.

Phnom Cheung Prey was divided into two hills. The eastern hill is called Phnom Srei or Phnom Thom, and the western hill is called Phnom Pros or Phnom Preah Bat. They are about 500 meters apart.

On Phnom Srei, sits an ancient temple made of laterite and built in 12th century. All but about 30 percent of the temple has been destroyed. The hill is accessible by three sets of stairs – on the north, the south and the east sides. Phnom Srei is 40 meters high, while Phnom Pros is only 30 meters. Cars can travel to the top of Phnom Pros.

According to Khmer folklore, the story of how Phnom Srei and Phnom Pros came to be is similar to the story of Phnom Pros and Phnom Srei in Kampong Siem district. In both cases, men and women competed to see who could build the taller hill. In this story, however, the place where the women dug the earth to build their hill became a big pond called Srah Teuk Preah, which can hold water for the entire year. Meanwhile, the place where the men dug the earth to build their hill became a big pond that holds no water. That pond is called Srah Kampeng Sanguot. It is said that Srah Kampeng Sanguot has no water because the women put a curse on it.

Next to Srah Teuk Preah is another pond, 50 meters square and 4 meters deep. It is called Srah Leang Cheung because before climbing the hill, people wash their feet there.

There are many objects on the hill, including a Buddha’s footprint stone, which Buddhists believe to be a magical object, Key neang Teav stone, Stone of Ta Preng’s footprint, Khun Chhang’s place, and west of the cave there is a stone hole called Ronlor Ta Preng. There is also a rampart made of laterite that encircles the hill. At one time, the rampart was 4 meters wide and 6 meters long on each side, but now only parts remain.

Haong Waterfall:
The site is a mountain that features a cliff and waterfall. Inaccessible at one time, it has become a popular tourist destination in Kampong Cham province. There might be no other place like Haong in the province, where visitors can see real nature. Those who have visitied will never forget the jungle and the beautiful waterfall that is perfect for swimming. Buddhists often come there to pray to the Buddha statue and to seek blessings from the monk who lives there.

According to local authorities, there are 1800 hectares of jungle at Haong. Some  of the trees have been cut by local villagers to clear land to farm. Haong is in Memut district on the border of Tambe district, about 90 kilometers east of the provincial town. The road to Haong is desolate, so it is recommended that visitors either take a tour there or travel with a group of people.

At one time, Haong was entirely jungle. Then a monk named Prak Mony arrived there, and Haong began to change. Today, monks live there and a pagoda is being built. A visit to Haong is an unforgettable experience.

Chhrouy Chek:
Chhrouy Chek is a name of the place that was built for stocking water to irrigate the rice fields. Its beautiful flora and water sources have made it a popular location for Kampong Cham dwellers to visit, especially on weekends and holidays. Young people in particular enjoy swimming there.

The site is about 15 kilometers from the provincial town, north of Kampong Siem district. The road is good, and there are lots of food stands along the way. Some food can be served with no waiting. There are also floating houses that can be rented for 2000 riel (USD 0.50), where visitors can sit and relax. Boats are also available to rent.

Chhrouy Chek dam was built from 1975 to 1978, during the Khmer Rouge regime, for the purpose of storing water to grow rice during the dry season. Many Cambodians died while building this dam and other were killed by the Khmer Rouge. The place where they died is called Prey Tranoab.