Phnom Bok is an ancient Angkor temple. “Phnom” alone literally means mountain. While Cambodia was holding Hindu as a state religion, the king used the mountain as a major value for temple buildings. No one did exactly get to understand about the life sacrifices to finish a temple from one to another. They did believe that the more great temples built on top, the more powerful gratitude they presented with their Gods. ‘’Bok’’ means ‘’Plus’’ in Khmer. “Phnom Bok” together means “Plus” Mountain or Bok Mountain.

History of Phnom Bok

The initial design and construction of the temple took place in the late of the 9th to early 10th century, during the reign of King Yasovarman I. The Cambodian historical moment followed by this king and noted that he was at the first reign who at the bottom found Angkor city, Yasodharapura. In part of the religious ideology, Phnom Bok built underneath, referred to the Trimurti, the main Gods in Hindu; Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Phnom Bok architectural building recognize as one building among three mountains. The other two do have a similar layout which are Phnom Bakheng and Phnom Krom. The king considered these three mountains as the fundamental value for Yasodharapura city and appointed Phnom Bakheng as a central part. Once later Cambodia made a great move as strictly holding Theravada Buddhism, all Hindu temples including Phnom Bok were converted into Buddhist temples. Since then, most previous Hindu Temple with its building on the top initiated too frequently updating to new Buddhist temples. The architectural building style was then following by the wood.

Phnom Bok and the Solar Cosmic Relationship

According to Ashley Cowie, a historian that investigate ancient cultures and kingdoms, explores the powerful Hindu-Buddhist Angkor Empire in Southeast Asia. He has recently examined the cosmological, symbolic and mythical components on Phnom Bok. They last year (2017) found this temple, aligning to the equinoxes and the winter and summer solar solstices. It could be observed from inside the western entrance of the temple. In the following picture, we see the relation of Phnom Bok hilltop and Angkor Wat Western Gate. They did the experimental by standing at the Western Gate at Angkor Wat on the June solstice and observed that the sun rising from behind Phnom Bok hill-top temple at an azimuth of 65.5° – 14 kilometers to the northeast.

Photo credited: Ashley Cowie

Phnom Bok Recent Day  

Phnom Bok locates about 16 kilometers from Siem Reap city, on the way to Banteay Srei temple. Phnom Bakheng and Phnom Krom are easy to access to the top, yet Phnom Bok is still a hard way to hike up. To get to see the temple of Phnom Bok, there are two options. One is trekking on the bumpy road, and it is somehow very challenging. If those who wish to try out the cycling talent, Phnom Bok ride is highly recommended. The spectacular view around the mountain is also another great way to explore on the ride. Another way is walking up with a staircase. Its elevation is about 650 steps. Today, Phnom Bok citadel, the towers, and the walls had partially ruined. The ruining may have been caused by the civil war or the rainfall. The French conservative group had restored some of its parts by replacing a new sandstone using the same replica, but that does not help temple much to emerge the whole beauty. Visitors could easily get from Siem Reap city to Phnom Bok foot by Tuk-tuk, vane, car, or bicycle. The best hour to visit is in the afternoon as you walk up and see the clear sun coloring the temple to become golden!