An atmospheric crumbling temple next to a large baray from the Bayon period under 30km from Battambang through gorgeous countryside
A great teaser for those who have yet to visit Angkor Wat or those wishing to admire more architecture from the Bayon period, Wat Ek Phnom or “only hill” pagoda was in its day, an ornately designed modern “temple of the west” as ordered by King Sorayak Varman II. Intricately rendered frescoes, pediments lintels, and most notably a bas-relief of the Churning of the Sea of Milk are the site’s strong suit.
Unique among provincial temples, Wat Ek Phnom was hewn of sandstone rather than the cheaper laterite and survived more than one assault from the Khmer Rouge, who, after a series of accidents, left the site convinced that the spirits weren’t happy.
How to get there
From Battambang, head north along Road 1 for 10km, crossing the Cobra (Naga) Bridge. As you close in on the temple, you’ll cross over a small concrete bridge, after which the road curves to the right whereas the modern temple which flanks Wat Ek Phnom stands to the left.
Not far from the shores of the Sangker River, it may be possible to arrange a boat trip along the waterway from Battambang to Siem Reap via floating villages on the Tonle Sap, stopping at Wat Ek Phnom along the way. NB. This is only possible when water levels allow for passage during rainy season May-November.
Guide to visiting
The ruins’ location on a small hill means that visits here require little workout compared to Wat Banan, Phnom Sampeau, the site of the Bat Caves in Battambang and many of the temples in Angkor Archaelogical Park in Siem Reap. Wat Ek Phnom is a good choice for elderly visitors or those with mobility issues- at present, there are few ramps around the temple sites, making access a challenge.
Trips to Wat Ek Phnom are often combined with nearby Wat Baset but if you only have limited time available, choose the better-preserved Wat Ek Phnom.
The ruins are particularly scenic at sunset, when the rays warm the stones.