The temple of Wat Phnom

Weather :

Timings : 7 AM to 6:30 PM

Time Required : 2 to 3 hours

Entry Fee : 1 USD

Wat Phnom, Phnom Penh Overview

Wat Phnom is a large Buddhist temple located on the only hill in the capital city of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. It is the tallest religious structure of the town and is quite popular among the locals who come here to pray for good luck and success in their lives. Offering magnificent views of the city and surrounded by a lovely garden, Wat Phnom hill temple is a top attraction of Phnom Penh that shouldn't be missed by tourists traveling in the city.

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Wat Phnom
Wat Phnom

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Best time to visit

The best time to visit Wat Phnom is early in the morning or late afternoon when the weather is pleasant.

What to wear

As with the other temples in Cambodia, it is expected that tourists dress appropriately. Women need to cover their shoulder at all times and wear knee-length attire. Sleeveless shirts and shorts aren't also allowed for both men and women. The rules are strictly followed, and you might be denied entry by the guards if you fail to obey them.

Wat Phnom History & Significance

Wat Phnom, also known as Wat Preah Chedey Borapaut was built in 1373, on top of Phnom Penh's only hill, and is regarded as the guardian of the city. The legend goes that a year before, in 1372, a wealthy widow named Penh or Daun Penh, after which the town got its name, found four bronze statues of Buddha inside a Koki tree at Mekong riverbank. She is believed to have placed these statues on the 27-meter high hill in a temporary place, where the temple of Wat Phnom was constructed later.

Later in the year 1437, King Ponhea Yat renovated the structure to make it into a majestic temple along with renaming the city to Phnom Penh from its original name Krong Chaktomok Mongkol.

Wat Phnom has withstood the test of time, bearing witness from the late Khmer empire era to the civil wars including the infamous Khmer Rouge, facing destruction several times. The central sanctuary of the temple or the Vihara was rebuilt many times in 1434, 1806, 1894, and 1926.

New Year celebrations

The temple receives hundreds of thousands of people from all over Cambodia during Khmer New Year celebrations, when a grand carnival, prayers and processions happen. It is a popular tradition among the locals to come here to seek their wishes fulfilled, and many people return to pray when they get their blessings. They make offerings such as garlands made of bananas or jasmine flowers to thank.

Wat Phnom Architecture

The temple architecture is grand and intricate. You need to pass through an elaborate staircase on the eastern end, which is decorated with statues of Nagas and lions balustrades. 

At the top, the central Vihara stands surrounded by different structures and smaller shrines. The interior of the central complex is home to a giant seated statue of Lord Buddha. 

The walls of this sanctuary consists of several colourful paintings, which depict the stories of Buddha representing his journey from childhood to his enlightenment. Interestingly, a section of the wall contains murals portraying scenes from the Hindu epic Ramayana.

There is a large stupa to the west of the Vihara consisting of the ashes of King Ponhea Vat. Between this stupa and the central Vihara is a small passage that leads to the statue of Penh. You can often see people offering prayers here to Penh seeking luck and prosperity. To the left of the Vihara, there is an enormous statue of Hindu God Vishnu, with eight arms. 

There is a statue of the Vietnamese monk Preah Chau guarded by two iron bats to the north of the Vihara. 

You can also find the paintings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius in front of these guardian bats along with the statues of the Chinese sages Thang Cheng and Thang Thay. 

Thus Wat Phnom is a unique temple consisting of structures depicting various religions and philosophies at one place, coupled with detailed post-Khmer style architecture.

How To Reach Wat Phnom

Wat Phnom is located close to the city centre of Phnom Penh and takes about 25 to 30 minutes to reach. You can rent a motorbike for about 8 USD per day to get there. Or you can hire a Tuk-Tuk for about 10 USD for a round trip, which can be shared. The price also includes waiting charges. It takes about 40 minutes to reach on foot.

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