Phnom Srei and Phnom Bros are hilltop temples located 8 km by road to the North West of Kampong Cham, which is located on the banks of the Mekong River. The same ticket which allows you entry to Nokor Bachey Pagoda, which is another of the popular temples in the area, also allows you to access Phnom Srei and Phnom Bros.
About Phnom Srei and Phnom Bros
Phnom Srei and Phnom Bros are cloase together. You can easily walk from one temple to the other. A common strategy for visiting the temples is take a taxi or motorbile taxi all the way to the top of Phnom Bros, then to walk to Phnom Srei, and finally walk back down to the road to find another driver to take you back to Kampong Cham. The walk is fairly easy but it does involve ascending 308 steps to reach Phnom Srei which may be difficult for anyone with limited mobility.
Legend of the Two Hills
As with many tourist attractions in Cambodia, there is a legend involving the creation of Phnom Srei and Phnom Bros and it relates to traditions around marriage proposal.
According to legend there once was a Khmer Queen called Srei Ayuthiya who was having difficulties finding a husband because no men were willing to go through the process of proposing marriage, which according to Cambodian tradition involves asking the lady’s parent’s permission. To get around the problem, Queen Srei decided to alter the tradition of men asking women to marry to women asking men to marry.
The women of Cambodia, however, were generally unhappy with this role reversal and challenged the men to a competition to build the tallest hill. The loser having thereafter to take on the duty of marriage proposals. The women of Cambodia won the competition by tricking the men into believing that the period in which the new hill had to built had finished, when in fact enough time was left for the women’s hill (Phnom Srei) to become taller than men’s hill (Phnom Bros).
Phnom Bros, or Wat Sovan Kiri Rattanak Phnom Pros to use the full title, is the largest and more impressive of the two temples. The temple was constructed in 1918, and originally featured a a stupa topped by a large Bayon style four faced representation of the God Brahma.
Unfortunately, the Khmer Rouge largely destroyed this temple during the period from 1975 to 1979, plundering anything of value. The temple was rebuilt in 2001 and remnants of the original temple are still visible today scattered around the site.
The temple buildings at Phnom Srei are less impressive than Phnom Bros. Little attempt appears to have been made to restore Phnom Srei and it looks run down. The fact that the temple isn’t accessible by road makes building projects more difficult. Carrying building materials up 308 steps is a time consuming challenge, and that makes any work more costly.
Nonetheless, the views from Phnom Srei are very good and it’s worth visiting for that reason alone.
In addition to visiting Phnom Srei and Phnom Bros you can also visit Phnom Touch, which is another nearby hill with another small temple complex featuring some newer and some older temple buildings and a range of statues. Not so many people visit Phnom Touch.
The area between Phnom Srei and Phnom Bros also has a number of other points of interest. This out of the way strip of land was used by the Khmer Rouge during the period from 1975 to 1975 as a place to detain, torture and murder their own fellow countrymen, women and children for crimes such as knowing a foreign language or possessing a pair of glasses. The number of people who died in this ‘Killing Field’ is unknown but there is a shrine to the dead along a pile of humn skulls which were found nearby.
Location of Phnom Srei
Phnom Srei is located 7.8 km by road from Krong Kampong Cham.