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Nestled in a corner of Cambodia north of Kompong Cham is a religious site and historical remnant that is sure to inspire some awe. Here, we’re taking a look at the gorgeous temple of Wat Hanchey, accessible by taxi, bus or one of the Mekong River cruises that regularly ferry visitors up to the temple. An important place to two world-wide religions and a complex full of the tumultuous history of Cambodia is worth visiting for alone.

View of the Mekong river from Wat HancheyView of the Mekong river from Wat Hanchey

Explore the temple

Wat Hanchey describes the overall religious complex but the 8th century red brick temple is clearly the star of the show. It has been preserved and changed over the years, but the original shape and many of the ancient Sanskrit inscriptions are well preserved. In the temple, you can see the blurring of the modern Buddhist worship, as well as dedication to the Hindu god Hirahara. Outside the temple is the Theravada pagoda, dedicated to Buddha, with gorgeous pieces of art depicting lions, nagas, and more. Many statues and paintings also depict the Khmer people, their traditional customs, and heroes, too.

About Wat Hanchey

A religious site that has held great importance for over a thousand years, both to adherents of Hinduism and Buddhism, with temples dedicated to both. The oldest of the temples was a center of worship of Hirahara during the Chenla Empire’s rule, as far back as the 7th century. This spot was chosen as model for the cosmic mountain that the Hindu gods are believed to live upon. As well as being an important place of worship, Wat Hanchey was a resting spot for pilgrims and general travellers alike, when there were fewer surrounding cities. Much of the complex was damaged under the rule of the Khmer Rouge, but the monks of the temple and others have dedicated a lot of time to restoring and fixing the damage.

Part of the architecture at Wat HancheyPart of the architecture at Wat Hanchey

Meet the Monks

At Wat Hanchey, you will always find novice monks, undergoing their studies and training, praying, and living their daily life within the walls of the complex. To these young Cambodian monks, Wat Hanchey is home, and they live primarily on the donations of food from the locals, as well as pilgrims making a trip to the temple. All visitors are welcome to receive a traditional water blessing from the monks as they depart Wat Hanchey, too.

Breath-taking views

One of the best things about Wat Hanchey is just how well the hill itself offers a view of the Mekong River and the surrounding wilderness. There are almost 300 steps to reach the top of the hill. At the top, you will have the kind of vantage point that’s hard to find elsewhere in the area, perfect for taking a breath of that cooler, higher altitude air and for snapping some pics of the surrounding nature.

Wat Hanchey is steeped in history, in religious significance, in tradition, and in beauty. The best way to experience Wat Hanchey is on our Classic Mekong cruise, where you take a sunrise cruise to the town and experience the amazing views and visit the 8th century structures.