Phnom Sampeau Killing Caves and Monastery

Phnom Sampeau Killing Caves and Monastery

No trip to Battambang is complete without a visit to Phnom Sampeau which is approximately 15km outside of the main city. This sacred mountain has a dark side – the Battambang killing cave was used by the Khmer Rouge to throw dead bodies down after they had been murdered. This dark side of Cambodian history is tough but important to understand. Phnom Sampeau contains 3 natural caves in total, all lined with Buddhist shrines and statues: Pkasla, Lakhaon and Aksopheak. At the top of Phnom Sampeau you will find a beautiful monastery and phenomenal views across the Cambodian countryside.   End your visit with a beer while you watch the mass exodus of bats leaving the Battambang Bat Cave for their nightly hunt!

A Buddhist Stupa half way up Wat Sampeau

Getting up Phnom Sampeau (sometimes called Phnom Sampov)

‘Phnom’ is hill in Khmer and ‘Sampeau’ means ship. So ‘Phnom Sampeau’ or ‘Phnom Sampov’ is ship hill or mountain – because it’s shape reminds locals of a ship. At the bottom of the mountain, tourists will be asked for a $1 fee to access it. There are two main ways to get up – walking or taking a jeep.

Please note that Phnom Sampeau is not wheelchair accessible

Along the way, there are about 5 sets of temples and interesting spots, and it takes about 10-15 minutes to ascend between each of these. Depending on how fit you are, it can take at least one hour – there are 1000+ steps in total. Leave plenty of time for this visit (a half day or full day trip is ideal) and remember that if you are choosing to hike up the steps can be tough in the heat of the day.

Due to our limited time (we had also been to ride the Battambang Bamboo train on the same day) we decided to share a jeep which was just $5 each. The jeep was a good easy and time saving option – he stopped off half way to visit the temple and the Killing cave and then we continued to the top for Wat Sampeau and some lovely views before heading down in time for the bats.

Booking a Tour of Phnom Sampeau

It is quite easy to book a trip to Phnom Sampeau with your Battambang hotel or youth hostel – most have contacts of tuk-tuk drivers who include this trip in their tour (In Battambang I used Bith Pikhun who was an excellent driver and guide).

If you want to book online in advance you can book the Get Your Guide Battambang Full day tour which includes a trip up the mountain.

You can also book through Viator travel and have two options. Viator offers a full day tour of the Highlights of Battambang that includes Wat Sampeau. For a cheaper option and good if you have limited time you can go for the Afternoon tour by tuk tuk to bamboo train, countryside, killing cave and bat cave.

Half Way Up – The Battambang Killing Cave and Temples

Half way up Phnom Sampeau you will find a temple that is beautifully decorated with pictures of the Buddhas life.

Further along there are some very interesting statues

Follow the path along until you reach the Naga stairs that head down into some limestone caves. Follow the stairs down to the caves and shrines.

You will be greeted by a beautiful orange Buddha statue…

On the left hand side you will see the killing cave when hundreds (if not thousands) of people were murdered and thrown into the cave by the Khmer Rouge during between 1975-1979. They used these caves as an easy option for a mass grave and the bones of teachers, doctors, lawyers – men, women and children – were found there.

To the right you will find a large golden reclining Buddha – make sure that you remove your shoes to visit this.

To the right of the reclining Buddha is a memorial stupa containing the bones of the deceased. Remember to be silent and respectful. Many Cambodians visit the Battambang Killing Cave to pay respects to their lost relatives.

Reaching the Top – Wat Sampeau

When you reach the top of Phnom Sampeau you will find a beautiful temple and monastery complex. Walk up past the first chedi to find the rest of the monastery buildings….

Follow yet another set of naga stairs to the main temples…

And expect guardian Yakshas to be on guard!

The main temple is a wonderful gold and light blue in colour and shouldn’t be missed. You may see monks in orange robes praying in the temple nearby. Remember not to touch or disturb the monks and do not take their photographs without their permission.

The numerous golden stupas provide a wonderful view at the top of Phnom Sampeau.

The views from the top of Phnom Sampeau are what really makes the journey worth it.

Catch it at sunset for some stunning shots.

Phnom Sampeau or Phnom Sampov
Views from Wat Sampeau (Wat Sampov)

Then head straight back down to catch the bats pouring out of the bat cave! This changes depending on the time of sunset and so check with your local guide when this will be. For us it was around 5.50pm and the bats continued to fly out for around 15 minutes! It’s quite a popular spectacle with the locals – chairs will be laid out ready to observe the bats and there are little bars where you can grab a beer to sit and watch them!

Where to Stay in Battambang

Battambang is theoretically the second city of Cambodia after the capital of Phnom penh, but it really doesn’t feel as crazy and hectic as Siem Reap! Make sure that you download the PASS app as GRAB doesn’t work for tuk-tuks in Battambang.

If you are looking for somewhere cheap to stay and don’t mind a hostel, I highly recommend ‘The Place‘. It’s right next to the Mekong Express office where the buses drop off. The Place has a lovely rooftop bar and restaurant and excellent cheap tours bookable on reception.

Some great hotel options in Battambang include The Royal Hotel and the Sanctuary Villa Battambang.

What to Pack for Cambodia

Take light cotton tops, long comfortable trousers and maxi dresses that cover your shoulders. Thailand is a conservative Buddhist county and you are likely to be refused entry to top sites like the Phnom Penh Royal Palace and Angkor Wat with shoulders showing and shorts or short skirts. You can pack shorts and vest tops for hanging around your hotel or the pool.

Gildan womens Heavy Cotton 5.3 oz. Missy Fit Long-Sleeve T-Shirt(G540L)-PURPLE-L
Hanes Women's Sport Cool Dri Performance Long Sleeve Tee, White, Large
Amazon Brand - Daily Ritual Women's Long-Sleeve Split-Hem Tunic, Black, X-Large
Gildan womens Heavy Cotton 5.3 oz. Missy Fit Long-Sleeve T-Shirt(G540L)-PURPLE-L
Hanes Women's Sport Cool Dri Performance Long Sleeve Tee, White, Large
Amazon Brand - Daily Ritual Women's Long-Sleeve Split-Hem Tunic, Black, X-Large
-
-
-
Gildan womens Heavy Cotton 5.3 oz. Missy Fit Long-Sleeve T-Shirt(G540L)-PURPLE-L
Gildan womens Heavy Cotton 5.3 oz. Missy Fit Long-Sleeve T-Shirt(G540L)-PURPLE-L
-
Hanes Women's Sport Cool Dri Performance Long Sleeve Tee, White, Large
Hanes Women's Sport Cool Dri Performance Long Sleeve Tee, White, Large
-
Amazon Brand - Daily Ritual Women's Long-Sleeve Split-Hem Tunic, Black, X-Large
Amazon Brand - Daily Ritual Women's Long-Sleeve Split-Hem Tunic, Black, X-Large
-

Pack a water bottle because many guest houses are eco friendly and have a refill and reuse policy to cut down on plastic waste. The drinking water is fine and many hotels supply cold purified drinking water.

Bugs bite particularly in the evenings in Cambodia and so a bug repellant is essential. Also the sun can get hot – this Christmas and New Year temperatures were exceeding 32 degrees and so sun screen is another essential.

Cheapest
Banana Boat Ultra Sport Sunscreen Lotion, New Formula, SPF 50+, 8 Ounces
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Water Resistant and Non-Greasy Sunscreen Lotion with Broad Spectrum SPF 100+, 3 Fl. Oz
EltaMD UV Clear Facial Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 for Sensitive or Acne-Prone Skin, Oil-free, Dermatologist-Recommended Mineral-Based Zinc Oxide Formula, 1. 7 oz
Banana Boat Ultra Sport Sunscreen Lotion, New Formula, SPF 50+, 8 Ounces
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Water Resistant and Non-Greasy Sunscreen Lotion with Broad Spectrum SPF 100+, 3 Fl. Oz
EltaMD UV Clear Facial Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 for Sensitive or Acne-Prone Skin, Oil-free, Dermatologist-Recommended Mineral-Based Zinc Oxide Formula, 1. 7 oz
$6.97
$8.97
$33.00
Cheapest
Banana Boat Ultra Sport Sunscreen Lotion, New Formula, SPF 50+, 8 Ounces
Banana Boat Ultra Sport Sunscreen Lotion, New Formula, SPF 50+, 8 Ounces
$6.97
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Water Resistant and Non-Greasy Sunscreen Lotion with Broad Spectrum SPF 100+, 3 Fl. Oz
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Water Resistant and Non-Greasy Sunscreen Lotion with Broad Spectrum SPF 100+, 3 Fl. Oz
$8.97
EltaMD UV Clear Facial Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 for Sensitive or Acne-Prone Skin, Oil-free, Dermatologist-Recommended Mineral-Based Zinc Oxide Formula, 1. 7 oz
EltaMD UV Clear Facial Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 for Sensitive or Acne-Prone Skin, Oil-free, Dermatologist-Recommended Mineral-Based Zinc Oxide Formula, 1. 7 oz
$33.00

Don’t Forget your Travel Insurance!

Don’t Forget Your Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is so important as it will help you with emergencies and unexpected costs on your trip. Make sure that you declare any pre-existing health conditions so that you are covered for those. Check your cover for accidents and medical care and also lost baggage or getting things stolen. Remember to report as soon as something goes wrong on your trip because some travel insurance companies require you to report something that you want to claim for within 24 hours. Read the fine print carefully when you sign up. I always recommend World Nomads. You can get a free quote here:

 

Templeseeker

Hi, I'm Amy Trumpeter and I have over 25 years of travel experience. I love seeking out temples, Churches and other religious and historical buildings. I write mainly about Asia, Europe and North Africa. My BA (Religions and Theology) and MA (South Asian Studies) were gained from the University of Manchester. Come and join me on my templeseeking journey around the world!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.