Volume 2 No.7

What's New

Place of Interest

Phrase Of The Month

Overheard





PHNOM PROSETHI
By: Jon Bugge.. Picture by : Jon Bugge ( July, 2002 Volume 2 No.7 )

Phnom Prosethi is actually comprised of two hills, a western and eastern. Upon both these mounts are two distinct temples. With close proximity to Phnom Penh and the nearby Phnom Reab, this proves to be a very popular picnic spot. It is not just anywhere one can visit Angkor Wat, well at least a replica, within 20 minutes from Phnom Penh! It is possible, and practical, to combine a visit to both Phnom Reab and the two hills of Phnom Prosethi in one trip. Visiting in the week provides a break from the madding crowd and a chance to enjoy the stunning views in relative peace.
Phnom Prosethi actually lies on a district border division in Kandal province. The Western mountain is in Mkaka commune, Angsnoul district. The Eastern is in Chhvang commune, Pornhea district. Legends and stories abound and this is evident in the cornucopia of colourful statues commemorating these events. It is for this reason that a simple stroll around the temple hills provides a fascinating insight into the history of the place. With several small grottos and nooks filled with figurines of Chinese style Buddhas and Gods. There are also examples of statuary, in every shade and hue, which bring the legends of the place alive before your very eyes.

One such famous legend is that of a large bird that rescued a king’s abandoned child. The child was called Baksey Chamkrong, in honour of the bird that had shielded the baby from the heat. An old man called Kouhe saved the child and adopted it. When it was discovered who the child was, he took the throne. Baksey Chamkrong ordered a Buddha statue to be built. It was this that led to the naming of the mountain. Originally called Phnom Isey Sethi, which means the Mount of the Hermit Succeeding in Everything. It had been here that Kouhe had prayed for his adopted son to one Baksey Chamrong: a memorial to the lifesaving bird. day take the throne. Prosethi means success, and this is the modern shortening of the ancient name. There is a stupa to the King at the top of the hill. Inside, highly coloured murals depicting scenes from the egends and more classic Buddhist themes. It is well worth the climb and the Baksey Chamkrong stupa was renovated in 1996. Monk and accha houses surround the stupa. A beautiful meditative spot with the classic views across the rice fields of Kandal. The huge Reclining Buddha, which was erected as thanks after Baksey Chamkrong took the throne, can be found on the hill. At some 27 metres in length it provides a monumental testament to this legend. There are some unverified reports, from locals, that the Buddha actually grows and used to be relatively small. Regardless of this, it is one of the finer examples, of this style, of Buddhist iconography.

Prasat Neang Krub Lakh.

This temple dates from the sixth century and is known as The Temple of The Ideal Girl. It is in a similar style to the temples of Sambor Prey Kuk. The temple has only the external walls remaining and is an eclectic mixture of trees, original sandstone, some large boulders and a corrugated tin roof to protect the internal sanctuary. The remaining external walls show some examples of carving and sculpture, hinting at its former grandeur. Wind, rain and the inevitable passage of time have all taken their toll. This temple is still active: the sanctuary is filled with candle light and incense smoke.

Neang Kong Si'im

The Western mountain also boasts a Buddha. However this is a seated Buddha and is atop a Chinese style temple. This complex was dedicated to the Neang Kong Si'im: a local who was famous during her life as a charitable and generous woman. The complex is complete with Chinese style fires for burning of offerings and the brightly fashioned statues. The building itself is the base for the Buddha above: towering above the temple, shining in a golden hue to honour the actions of this kind woman. There is even a small wind turbine to generate a small amount of electricity for those who live by the temple.
This fascinating couple of temple hills provides the ideal day trip. It is lies just off National Route 5 in Kandal Province. It offers a scenic journey in its own right. It is not only the breathtaking views, but also the interesting amalgamation of local legend and statuary, that singles out this destination as well worth a visit. Perhaps if you offer prayers you will be awarded the eponymous outcome!