It is incomplete to visit Phnom Penh without visiting Wat Phnom. Being home to the culture and history of Phnom Penh, Wat Phnom is the central heart of the city. Wat Phnom, also known as Phnom Daun Penh is a reference where Phnom Penh city took its name from. Aside from being one of the most famous landmarks, it is also a sacred place to visit, prays, and relax. Built on top of a hill, Wat Phnom is a Buddhist temple full of fascinating history. Its surroundings include trees and fresh air as which create a peaceful and beautiful scene.
The best part is that it is a public open space for anyone to visit, and learn about its history. For Cambodian people who believe in Buddhism, this historical site brings back the history and memories of their religion. Moreover, this temple and religious belief also reflect the mindset of Khmer people until these present days. The mysterious landmark offers the sight of a Buddhist temple, various stupas, a temple of genie Preah Chau, and a giant clock, which are the historical and cultural site that tourists need to know about Wat Phnom, especially Cambodian identity.
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A Brief History of Wat Phnom
Built in 1378 during the reign of King Ponhea Yat, the full name of Wat Phnom is Phnom Duan Penh. This Phnom Penh landmark has a very long and mysterious history. Back in the past, there was a wealthy old lady named Penh living beside the river. One day, she found a large Korki tree floating in the river. The dead tree was floating in the river for a few days without flowing away with the river.
So she then asked the villagers to drag that tree from the river. That was when she found out that in the tree, there are four bronze statues of Buddha and one stone statue. Later, Lady Penh constructed a temple on the hill to keep these Buddha statues. Lady Penh also invited the monks to stay there and then from time to time, people just called this hill Wat Phnom Daun Penh and as time went by, we just cut it short to just Wat Phnom until today. Also, many people would go pray at the temple for good luck and wishes.
Wat Phnom is a famous landmark that cannot escape from the eyes of tourists who visit the city. This religious hill is a holy place that has been maintaining people’s belief until the present day. The environment around the hill contains fresh air with the spirit that people always believe and respect when they visit. Surrounded by a garden full of trees and flowers, Wat Phnom will bring you the best natural atmosphere of this crowded city.
According to the great city manual from India, Cambodians believe that there should be a mountain or hill along in the capital city. The people also believe that a mountain is a sacred place that brings them resources for the city. For example, the Angkor Empire and Oudong City, they all had mountains in the city, even the temples also represent the mountains.
Some facts and activities
Top of Wat Phnom:
The main temple sanctuary on top of Wat Phnom was built and given the name as “Wat Preah Chedey Borapaut”. This Buddhist temple was rebuilt several times during the 19th century, and the last construction was in 1926. Inside the temple, there is a statue call “Preah Chaktomuk” on the throne inside the open tower. Khmer people and tourists can visit the statue inside the temple and pray for luck and happiness. Besides, they can study and observe the painting on the wall of the temple, which is a story about Buddha before his enlightenment. Tourists can also see the great view of the city during the days from the hill by standing near the main stairway.
West side of Wat Phnom:
Walking to the back of the temple, stood the main stupa which contains the relics of King Ponhea Yat (mids 15th century). This biggest stupa on the hill is called Chedey Preah Borom Borpet Ponhea Yat which most people mistake it as Lady Penh’s stupa. To be more detailed, Preah Borom Borpet Ponhea was the king who found Krong Chaktomuk Serei Mongkol, or we call Phnom Penh these days. There is a small shrine of Lady Penh who was the founder of Wat Phnom at the temple’s southwest corner. Her statue is in black, wearing beautiful traditional clothes and other accessories. Many Cambodian people usually go to her to pray and wish for success in their work, study, and business. They believe that she is a protector of the city and guidance for people who ask for help.
North side of Wat Phnom:
Below the main temple, there lies a temple of the genie Preah Chau. This temple is more like a Chinese temple and there are many Chinese Buddhist statues inside the temple. Both Khmer and Chinese descendants residing in Cambodia also have a strong belief in this temple and it is the most crowded place in Wat Phnom Compound. When the people especially the Chinese want to open businesses, they will first go to pray at this temple. If they succeed in their businesses, they will make an offer back to the temple. People also go there during the Chinese New Year to ask for protection and free the birds to bring luck and happiness to their family.
Base of Wat Phnom:
You can also visit and take pictures with Wat Phnom Giant Clock. This gigantic clock was a gift from China in 2000. In addition, the clock we can see now is a new replacement of the old clock that came from France back in the 1960s. Above this giant clock, you will see the statue of King Sisowath in the middle, three Apsaras on the right, and a soldier on the left. At this site, people like to take pictures because of its beautiful view and play around the vast space there.
Wat Phnom is one of the many fascinating places in Phnom Penh that tourists should never skip. It is the history and identity of this capital city. The temples inside the compound and its uniqueness embed the Khmer history, culture, and religious belief. Moreover, when you have a chance to visit, spend some time to walk around and visit nearby sites as well. On Preah Norodom Blvd, you can visit Nagas Bridge which was built since the French colonization as well. A bit to the north of the hill, there is a playground open to small kids as well. Most people like to bring their kids to play there in the evening.
After visiting Wat Phnom, at the south of the hill, tourists can as well visit the national library to relax and read books there quietly. And for those who enjoy shopping, you can also visit the Exchange Square mall nearby to shop for different types of items, watch a movie, or enjoy the food. Surrounded by many entertaining places, Wat Phnom represents the capital city itself you should explore when visiting Phnom Penh.
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