Phnom Bayang / Cambodia



Phnom Bayang /
Phnom Bayong Monuments

'Flower Ornament at Phnom Bayang Temple' by Asienreisender

Flower ornamentic at Phnom Bayang temple. One of only three pieces I could identify. Image by Asienreisender, 2014

Bayang Temple on top of Phnom Bayang (Bayang Mountain) is said has been a victory monument of the water Chenla empire over the empire of Funan. This event might have triggered the move of the Sailendra Dynasty from Funan to Sumatra (Srivijaya empire) and later to central Java (Borobodur). Phnom Bayang was built in the years between 615-635 CE, when Funan was in it's late, ending phase. It consists of a main temple building on the very peak of Phnom Bayang and four side temples who are spread over the surrounding hill landscape.

Phnom Bayang

'Phnom Bayang Main Monument' by Asienreisender

Phnom Bayang monument, seen from the backside.

Image by Asienreisender, 11/2014

The four outer or side temples are named Preah Kor temple, north Kanang temple, east Kanang temple and Kampoul Kanang temple.

In the old times there was probably a decent approach, a small road up to the peak. All the debris around speaks for that there was more construction, paved walkways, more steps, yards and probably encircling walls for the five monuments.

Phnom Bayang Temple was built in the reign of king Pavavarman II. It's far not that spectacular than the grand sights around Siem Reap, but the architecture is clearly related. It seems to me also, that there is a similarity to the medieval hindu monuments of central Java, namely Candi Bima (Dieng Plateau) and Prambanan.

Phnom Bayang is centuries older than the other mentioned monuments, and much, much smaller in size. It's built mostly with bricks; the stairways are built in laterite, as parts of the outer remains of what ever it was. Phnom Bayang temple has a size of 13m length, 9m width and a height of 12m. The building now appears in a pretty poor shape. The roof has collapsed, and the outer walls lost all of their former shape. However, considered it's age and the fact that there certainly happened little, if any, conservation work on it, it's still in a remarkable good shape. A closer look at it's outer walls reveal the remains of parts of former ornamentics. There is a head and a whole human to see, another spot shows a blooming flower as bedecking these old temple buildings so often. At the lower part of the towerlike main monument there are the remains of larger frescos with formerly sophisticated arrangements to see; one can only guess what it showed in the old days. Nevertheless, after all what I saw I would consider the buildings and the reliefs of high artistic and craftmanship quality - particularly the main temple.

Inside the main monument is the unavoidable shrine with many idols of the hindu and buddhist world placed. The sharp smell of bat's excrements gives a hint to some of the temples's inhabitants.

Around the temple tower are bushes and trees growing. Supposedly the jungle was cleared in the Chenla time. Where the sight is free, the peak grants a majectic view over this part of the Mekong River Delta to the east and to the forested hills respectively mountains to the western side.

A Journey up to Phnom Bayang

'Photocollage Phnom Bayang' by Asienreisender

A short trip up to Phnom Bayang, depicted in eight photos.

The first image shows Phnom Bayang itself; 'Phnom' is Khmer for 'mountain', so, it's not actually the temple's name, but the mountains name. The mountain and it's peak is already to see when leaving the asphalt road and entering the sand road which leads up to the monuments.

After a long walk up a serpentine path one sees already right hand one of the four side temples. Next path turn right to visit it. The next two pictures show the monument's gate and how it looks inside. That's a typical temple arrangement as it is displayed in countless buddhist temples in Cambodia, Laos and particularly Thailand.

The broad photo below shows the second, much bigger part of the laterite stairway to the main monument on the peak of Phnom Bayang.

Once reached the top end of the stairway, one is facing the alley shown in the photo below left. The peak is broad and now overgrown with jungle. It's highly probable that in the time of the Chenla empire, when Phnom Bayang was an active sacred place, the whole of the peak was used by any arrangements. An amount of debris around shows that there was much more construction in the very past. Thats a similar observation at the side temple one passes on the way up. There are, by the way, alltogether four additional side temples spread over the mountains around the main monument.

Having approached the temple building and turning contra clockwise around, one sees the large fresco shown in the next photo. Unfortunately there is practically nothing recognizable anymore, except certainly for archeologists with a good deal of experience and professionality. On the opposite side there are three frescos still recognizable. That's the face at the top right of this page, the body in an arch seen at the top left of the page and the bloom shown on the top of the page left to the page navigation.

The peak offers stunning views over the Mekong Delta in the border region between Cambodia and Vietnam. The other side to the south is covered with mountains. It's a smaller mountain chain which runs half-way parallel to the national road 2 towards Vietnam.

The forest here is apparently secondary jungle. So close to the Vietnamese border, the international logging mafia has long since taken all the valuable trees out of the formerly primary tropical rainforest.

All images and photocomposition by Asienreisender, 11/2014



Cambodia is still a country with a widely undeveloped infrastructure. That concerns, above all water, electricity and road infrastructure; of course, tourism is another point on the list. Apart from famous Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and the grand ancient surrounding of Siem Reap there are many, many more smaller sights spread over whole Cambodia who are completely unknown to the world. Besides Phnom Chisor and Angkor Borei/Phnom Da, Phnom Bayang (also: Phnom Bayong) is one of them - even more unknown than the two first mentioned.

Monks at Phnom Bayang

'Monks in Front of Phnom Bayang Temple' by Asienreisender

Two clergymen in front of Phnom Bayang temple's entrance. The man in white is a hindu and the one at the right is easily to identify as a buddhist monk. They live together with at least five other men and one woman at the place. There are caves in the huge rocks around who are prepared to sleep in. The buddhist monk told me he would spent a month up here before leaving again for another place.

Image by Asienreisender, 2014

When I came to Kirivong and Bayang Mountain, there was practically no hint to the old monuments, except an old and yellowed sign with two images at the turn to the national road 2. Where to go to find it is up to the visitor. So, asking several locals made the approach. It's a longer way up the mountain, so I wondered to find a local guide. Guide books suggested to find a guide for 5,000 riel, what would be 1,25 US$. However, talking to some families at the road next to the turn into the green they wanted much more. 20 US$ for a driver who would bring one up to the beginning of the stairway. No English, no knowledge of the place and no bargaining - 20 US$, below they wouldn't bend a finger. And that wasn't actually, what I wanted - I wanted to walk up. After similar experiences with other neighbours, I decided to go by my own. The first trial ended up in a sand pit. Second trial I found the right path up. It winds partially steep up into the hills, here and there offering great views over the neighbouring landscapes - the Mekong Delta to the east, a mountainous landscape to the west. When walking, one needs two liters of water in the heat of the day. There is no water available after leaving the ashpalt road.

The path leads close along one of the four outer monuments, then to the foot of a long laterite stairway. There are some bamboo shacks with men in white clothes who are apparently living here. They are Sanjang, hindu clergy. From the foot of the stairway one climbs up to another elevated platform, where two more shacks are placed. From there it's another, shorter and wider stairway up to the main monument. The lower and much longer stairway is very steep and the steps are old, broken and often very small. It requires concentration to go up and particularly down them in dry season; in rainy season one has to be much more carefull for the slippery. One can look for alternative ways being less steep, for the hindu clergymen are using them. The main stairway consists of 390 steps.

Pn. Bayang, Side Temple

'Phnom Bayang, Side Temple' by Asienreisender

One of the four side temples of Phnom Bayang. Half disappeared in the jungle and a banana orchard at the backside, there is a lot of debris around. In former times there was certainly more structure around, for example an enclosing wall.

Image by Asienreisender, 2014

Reaching the main monument there was another Sanjang who was watching me as intensely as I watched the sight. The suspicion is always that they want to bother visitors for money, and of course there are several donation boxes placed. Suddenly there appeared also a buddhist monk in the classic orange robe. Talking to the two men, they told me that few visitors find the way up here. There is maybe one at weekdays, but on weekends it happens that more visitors arrive. They come from Phnom Penh or elsewhere. After visiting the sight and donated somewhat into the donation box inmiddle of all the many idols in the main shrine (the donation box has the most prominant position between all the idols), the buddhist monk, named Mauh, was so friendly to show me some of the surroundings as well. There is a small building with a hall with another shrine and some wall paintings, what looks typical for buddhist temples. An old woman with white clothes, either also hindu or a buddhist nun, was sitting there. Behind that place is a bamboo kitchen shack and a bit further down there are two caves. In one of them the buddhist monk sleeps, in the other one he prepared another shrine for meditation and praying. There is, of course, no electricity up here at the remote place. The clergymen and -women depend on fire, gas, batteries. Pretty quiet and maybe a bit spooky here at night. Nighttime lasts about twelve hours in average, and there are no big differences here, near to the equator, around the seasons. Anyway, when I went up to the peak of Phnom Bayang there was still the incredible din to hear which came out of one of the blasted loudspeakers down, anywhere along the small road.


The Cambodian / Vietnamese border at Phnom Den / Tinh Bien

Some five kilometers from Phnom Bayang there lies the state border to Vietnam. It's situated inmiddle of the rice fields of the lower Mekong River, so, approaching the border means driving inmiddle of a plain which is bordering the mountaineous landscape to the right around Phnom Bayang. Phnom Bayang is actually the first peak of a number of others who stretch as a mountain chain half-way parallel to the national road 2.

Border Checkpoint

'Vietnam-Cambodia Border at Phnom Den' by Asienreisender

The Cambodian/Vietnamese border at Phnom Den is a small one, but still an important connection between south Vietnam and Cambodia's capital Phnom Penh. Here the Vietnamese checkpoint is to see.

Image by Asienreisender, 2014

Well, state borders are always bleak places, and that's not any different here. The Cambodian national road 2 connects Phnom Penh with south Vietnam, and it's in a pretty good shape. Nevertheless, there isn't too much traffic on it. Trucks who transport goods cross the border frequently, together with some cars and more motorbikes. Similarly to the border at nearby Prek Chak there are two new casinos recently built on the rice paddies. Also, nearby Phnom Den is one of the places who are now start to boom - whole towns are under re-construction with a lot of building activity. Cambodia is getting rapidly urbanized and developed. That is reflected along the national road 2, for a growing number of companies choose a place along the road to establish industrial buildings like goods depots. The national road leads to Takeo, which is the next bigger place around in Cambodia and the provincial capital. Phnom Den and Phnom Bayang are lying within Takeo Province.

By the way: for those who get stick for a night in Phnom Den: there are at least two guesthouses in the village.

The Cambodian/Vietnamese Border at
Phnom Den/Tinh Bien

'The Cambodian/Vietnamese Border at Phnom Den/Tinh Bien' by Asienreisender

Borders are always sad places. This border here, placed inmiddle of the rice paddies in the Mekong Delta, is no exception. On the contrary, the booming economies of Cambodia and Vietnam will boost more building activities. In the Mekong Delta on the Vietnamese side there is a new highway planned to be build within the very few next years with dozends of bridges for the price of a billion dollars. Much more traffic is to expect here in the soon future. A very sad example of this kind of destructive development is Thailand.

The casino tourism to these border points will probably also boom on; there will more of them follow, while till now there are only the two we see here above. Hotels for the gamblers will follow, together with restaurants, brothels, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera...

More and more of these ugly industrial storage buildings are seaming the new roads in Cambodia. Not seldom these buildings not only look as, but are brandnew ruins - just built and already abandoned. The invisible hand of the free market is a quick and unpredictable bastard.

Images and photocomposition by Asienreisender, 11/2014

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Published on November 17th, 2014