Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Welcome to Ship Mountain

The entrance to Phnom Sampeou, 1,225 steps and the archway showing the ship from the story of Rumsay Sok
Ship Mountain, or known to all as Phnom Sampeou, is famous in Cambodian folklore because of the story of Rumsay Sok, but is better known to western visitors for its caves of death where the Khmer Rouge bludgeoned their victims to death before throwing them down the cave shafts into the darkness below. Today it's a must-see stop on the Battambang tourist circuit for its caves, gorgeous hilltop views and meditation center. It has more reclining Buddha statues than I've seen elsewhere and has had some money pumped into its Buddhist shrines, which proliferate compared to my first visit to the mountain in 1999. The two small killing fields memorials have been combined into a brand new shrine, built last year, though we arrived late in the day so the cave was in complete darkness, hence my photographs aren't of very good quality. Phnom Sampeou is 18 kms from Battambang, there are 1, 225 steps waiting for you to climb - according to one of the young boys who acted as our guide - and at the top, Wat Kereoum is a peaceful retreat where many come to meditate. Oh, and the story of Rumsay Sok, well maybe I'll leave that for another day.
The view from halfway up the mountain, looking back towards Battambang
The first of many reclining Buddhas, with the names of all the donors on the walls
In the first series of caves is this large reclining Buddha
In the second series of caves, this Buddha has the new killing fields memorial for company
Looking up towards Phnom Sampeou from the gently-sloping path that we took instead of retracing the 1,225 steps


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