Legend of Wat Sampeov Pram
By: Moul Jetr. ( January, 2002 Volume 2 No.1 )

At the peak of Kampot's Bokor Mountain, near the Kamchay Waterfalls, is a little pagoda called Wat Sampeouv Pram, or the Pagoda of Five Sailing Boats. The pagoda was built by King Sisowath Monivongs in 1924 while the country was a French protectorate and is small but exquisite, with its tiny temple and stupa forming its entrance. The pagoda is especially striking for its setting next to five amazing huge, flat rocks, 10 meters long by 10 meters high sheets. These natural formations stand like the sails of huge boats, giving the temple its name. And this, according to the local people, is the legend of how those rocks came to be there. Once upon a time there was a prince named Preah Thong. The young man's father favored his younger brother and asked him to give everything over to his sibling, so Preah Thong decided to leave his own land and travel the world, taking a handful of loyal followers with him.

One day, Preah Thong docked his sailing boat at a large beach and spied a very tall Tlork tree. Tlork trees produce nuts which are both edible and can be used for waterproofing a boat, which was something he sorely needed to do, so he ordered his men to make camp near the tree. The next morning at dawn the prince was wandering the beach alone when he saw a group amusing themselves by the water, including a beautiful Nagini, or Naga princess. It was love at first sight for both.

Soon, the prince was proposing the Nagani introduce him to her father. "Hold my tail," she commanded, and dived deep to the seabed to call on her royal father. The Naga king was delighted and granted a wedding for his daughter and the prince. But after staying in the country of the Naga for just seven days, the prince knew he wanted to claim a kingdom of his own and had to move on and explore the world with his new wife. Again, the Naga King gave his blessing. In fact, far from objecting, the king gave the couple five huge sailing boats laden with treasures fit for such a noble couple. Together with their now 500 followers, the couple sailed to a high peak and built a city there. Time passed, the water receded and mud and silt buried the boats, but time turned their masts and sails to stone. And they may still be seen today, reminding visitors of how people first came to Bokor Mountain. And that is the story of Wat Sampeouv Pram, the Five Sailing Boats Pagoda a story not known by many who visit Phnom Bokor.