Situated atop a remote hillside in Kampong Cham, Cambodia is the ancient 7th-century temple of Wat Hanchey. After climbing 300 steps, guests are greeted with the sights and sounds of chanting monks and resplendent views of the Mekong River.
Originally built as a Hindu place of worship during the Chenla Empire (which would later fall to and merge with the Angkor kingdom), this temple is now inhabited by predominantly Buddhist monks. This combination of Hindu and Buddhist faith is apparent in the complex’s buildings, monuments and architecture.
A worn, red-bricked stupa is one of the rare structures which survived both U.S. bombings and the Khmer Rouge, while most of the other holy buildings have been erected in more recent decades. To receive a traditional water blessing from a resident monk, visitors may enter the site’s central yellow and blue-tinted pagoda.
Most notable upon stepping foot into Wat Hanchey are the scores of young, jovial novice monks, clad in bright saffron robes. They are always delighted at the chance to meet outsiders.
Many of these fledgling disciples are sent to here by their families from surrounding villages. A typical day starts with rising at the break of dawn and starting with a simple, locally donated meal before spending the majority of the day studying and praying. During their downtime, they just hang out and socialize amongst each other, just as any other child would do.
Getting to Wat Hanchey
By land, travellers can reach Wat Hanchey via tuk tuk or motorbike from the nearby town of Kampong Cham, located roughly 20 km (12.4 mi) to the south.
Heritage Line also includes Wat Hanchey as part of our lower Mekong River cruise itineraries between Siem Reap and Saigon. We operate two luxurious boutique vessels, Heritage Line Jayavarman and The Jahan, which discover Vietnam and Cambodia’s green landscapes, enlightening heritage sites and charming village life.