The Perched Temple: Wat Phnom Sampov, Battambang. A Photo Story

Wat Phnom Sampov

Wat Phnom Sampov temple is a beautifully decorated temple complex that perches atop the hillside of Sampov. It has historical significance to Cambodian culture that details folklore about the creation of Crocodile Mountain, which you can see from the Wat Phnom Sampov temple.


Wat Phnom Sampov
Wat Phnom Sampov

The Legend of Phnom Sampov and the Crocodile Lady

There is a kingdom near Dongrek mountain, which is now situated on the Cambodian-Thai border. The King and Queen of this Kingdom produced a son called Reach Thkol, who when he was 16 years old, was sent to learn with a hermit in a nearby forest.

The hermit taught him the rules and practices of the school – one of which forbode him to visit the forest behind the hermit’s hut. One day when the hermit was away, Reach Thkol decided to visit the forest and met a beautiful girl named Sovan Macha. She had a pet crocodile named Athun. Reach Thkol and Sovan Macha continued seeing each other as often as they could until the Prince finished his studies and had to return home.  He promised to return and marry her.

When Reach Thkol returned to the Royal Palace, his parents ordered a forced marriage with a Princess from a nearby Kingdom. Her name was Rom Saysok, which means beautiful and magical hair.

Reach Thkol refused saying that he loved Sovan Macha but his father insisted and Reach Thkol met the Princess, Rom Saysok. Eventually Reach agreed to marry Rom which angered Sova Mach who vowed to seek revenge.

Upon boarding a boat for his forthcoming marriage, Reach was accosted by Arthun, Sovan’s pet crocodile, who had been ordered to kill everyone on the boat. The people on the boat were scared and begged Arthun for mercy however Arthun was unyielding, saying “I only listen to people who feed me.”  Hearing this, the people on the ship gave him chickens, ducks and turtles but Athun refused their offerings and the Prince was forced to pray for help.

The Princess, Rom Saysok, heard his cry and she used her magic hair to save the Prince. She stroked her hair and dropped it into the sea. Her hair absorbed all the water and the sea dried up.

Athun died on the dry land, surrounded by the food that the Prince’s people had offered him. He turned into a mountain called Kro Pue mountain (Crocodile Mountain). All the offerings turned into mountains too – Trong Mean, Trong Tea and Onderk Mountains (Chicken, Duck, and Turtle Mountains).

The ship was stuck on land as well and turned into Sampov Mountain (Phnom Sampov – Ship Mountain). The people were saved from Sovan Macha by the Princess and they lived long and happy lives. Sovan Macha was later killed by the Prince, Reach Thkol.