Phnom Krom (pronounced "kraom") is the name of both a 137 metres high hill ("Phnom") and the temple on top of it, the ancient structure is also called Prasat Phnom Krom or written Phnom Krum. It is situated approximately 12 kilometres south of Siem Reap close to the "Great Lake" Tonle Sap and the port for ships to the flaoting village Chong Kneas. You can not miss the hill as it is the only one far and wide. It is worth climbing because of the good views to the Tonle Sap and surrounding farm land. The best time to visit the temple is the early morning, but some of the few foreign visitors come for enjoying the sunset. Behind the new steep stairway you have to follow a curved path and cross a modern pagoda complex. The ancient Khmer Prasats are behind it, on the very top of the hill.
Local legend has it that the many rocks on the hill were exposed by the monkey warrior Hanuman when he had to fly across the ocean for transporting a whole mountain of medicinal herbs in order to cure Rama's brother Lakshmana, a famous episode from the Ramayana epic. The Indian epic Ramayana is very popular throughout Southeast Asia. It is renarrated in several versions in native languages, scenes from the Khmer version called Reamker are often portrayed in dance.
The temple Prasat Phnom Krom was built about 900 AD by Yashovarman I. This very first king residing in Angkor used all three natural hills in the plains of Angkor for temple buildings on top of them. Phnom Krom's sister temple on the remote Phnom Bok east of Angkor is a very similar structure, consisting of three Prasats in a north-south row, open to the east and west, and with additional edifices to the east, whereas the temple on top of Phnom Bakheng, right in the centre of Yashovarman's newly founded Khmer capital, was crowned with a much huger pyramidal structure, decorated with 109 Prasats. Remarkably, it was predomintly sandstone which was used for the Prasats of this early period, whereas the later tenth century Prasats are brickstone constructions.
Phnom Kroms three Prasats, in the sculptural art style of Bakheng, are dedicated to the Trimurti. The slightly larger central tower is dedicated to Shiva, while the northern Prasat to Vishnu and the southern one to Brahma. Its foundation shows a frieze of lotus petals and of Hamsas, which is Brahma's mount, the sacred goose. The statues of the shrines are now in the Musée Guimet in Paris, only the pedestals remained in situ. The upper portions of the towers have collapsed and the facades are very degraded. The three main towers stand on a rectangular platform, with a sandstone molding paving over a laterite base. Two sides of the basis are intercepted by three stairways with lions sculptures. Traces of relief decoration are on the colonettes, on the panels of the false doors, on the lintels, and in niches.
Four small buildings of similar sizes precede the sanctuaries, the two in the middle are of sandstone, the outer two of brick. All four have grids with of holes in the walls, which suggests they may have been used as crematoriums.
The temple compound has a square plan, it is enclosed by a laterite wall intersected on each side by a cruciform Gopuram entry. There are bases of three long laterite halls paralleling the wall around the courtyard. They probably served as rest houses.
The temple is perfectly lighted up by the early morning sun. But the best time to visit this hilltop is the late afternoon, for enjoying the sunset at the Great Lake. Phnom Krom is one of Angkor’s few major sights located outside the Archaelogical Park. But you cannot visit Phnom Krom without Angkor Ticket.