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 Phnom Santuk (Phnom Sontuk; 207m), its flanks decorated with Buddha images and a series of pagodas, is the most important holy mountain in this region and a site of Buddhist pilgrimage. It’s attractively set high above the surrounding countryside, which means there are lots of stairs to climb – 809, in fact. These wind their way up through a forest and emerge at a colourful pagoda that has many small shrines quite unlike others around Cambodia. Balanced around the wat are a number of interesting sandstone boulders into which images of Buddha have been carved. Just beneath the southern summit of the mountain are several large reclining Buddhas – some modern incarnations cast in cement, others carved into the mountain itself centuries ago.

Phnom Santuk has an active wat and the lacal monks are always interested in receiving forign tourists. For travellers spending the night in kompong Thom, Phnom Santuk is a good place from which to catch a magnificent sunset over the rice fields, though this means coming down in the dark.

The parking fee, which is clearly not being spent on litter pickup, depends on who’s collecting it and who you are. Khmer motorbike/taxi drivers generally pay 500r/2000r; foreigners are hit up for more. There are food stalls and lots of beggars around the car park.