Fifty kilometers south of Phnom Penh along National Route 2 there is a big billboard
that reads: "This is a smoke-free zone. Thank you for you not smoking - Neang
The grounds of Wat Prasat Neang Khmao are home to the ruins of two temples that share its name.
The billboard, about 5 kilometers west of Phnom Chiso, announces the presence of
Wat Prasat Neang Khmao situated in Takeo Province's Cha village. The entire complex
is called Prasat Neang Khmao, and inside there are two well-known temples on a small
hill by a new Buddhist temple.
Prasat Neang Khmao, according to local legend, is linked to King Soryau Te Vong,
who banished his daughter, Neang Khmao, because she fell in love with a commoner.
Vong and his royal family lived at the base of Chiso mountain near Tonle Oum, close
to the other three rivers - Tonle Sngoun, Tonle Pro Tron and Tonle Tron - in the
middle of Sen Phou Vang forest.
The Chiso King banished his 16 year-old daughter, Neang Khmao from the royal family
for breaking the royal rule by secretly falling in love with one of the "simple
Bandith Srey played a magic leaf flute to lure Neang Khmao to meet him at the Tonle
Pro Tron where she sometimes went to swim.
Bandith Srey played the leaf flute and the beautiful music attracted Neang Khmao.
Entranced, she searched to find where the sound was coming from. When she came upon
Bandith Srey she fell in love with him. Neang Khmao could think of nothing else and
would often meet him by the river.
That is until one day when the King found out. Angered by his daughter's defiance,
the King ordered her to be killed. The Queen, who didn't want her only daughter to
die, begged the King to pardon her. Softened by his wife's words, the King banished
his daughter from the kingdom and ordered his subjects to build temples for her to
keep her away from her lover. After leaving the palace she was consumed by sadness
and disappointed at being separated from her lover and her family.
A new statue of Neang Khmao stands outside the temple.
Not far from the temples lived a strong and intelligent monk named Keo. She went
to him to ask him to release her from her sadness. When she arrived, Neang Khmao
saw the monk was more handsome than her lover, Bandith Srey, and she fell in love
with the monk.
After she met the monk Keo, Neang Khmao often went to get holy water from him. Her
beauty made it difficult for Keo to reject her love. Monk Keo abandoned his saffron
robes and began to live with the exiled princess.
Following the times, Prasat Neang Khmao complex was turned into a pagoda for the
Close to the Buddhist temple, a cement statue representing Neang Khmao has been erected
in front of the temple because it is believed she lived there during her banishment.
According to Oun Mol, 60, who identified himself as a temple caretaker, five temples
were originally built but only two remain because others were damaged and then cleared
away to make room for the new Buddhist temple.
Mol said that although the temples are small, there are a lot of visitors on the