During one of our weekends, even though our work eats up most of our time, we managed to sneak in a quick motorbike excursion a bit further afield and headed over to Oudong Mountain. It is a quiet town that is often missed by foreign tourists; however, we find this place interesting as it contains a valuable portion of the country’s history.
Oudong was the former capital of Cambodia from 1618 until 1866, when the French convinced King Norodom to move the royal court to Phnom Penh.The town is situated at the foothill of a mountain which is about 40 km northwest of the current capital, Phnom Penh.
Phnom Oudong was tentatively included in the list of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites,in the cultural category,in 1992. It is a home to several important religious monuments such as temples, stupas, and shrines in memories of by-gone kings on a picturesque and spectacular hillside setting. I have learned that many of the religious monuments were built after Oudong ceased to be Cambodia’s capital.
We went there on a weekend and there were many people, mostly locals, and few tourists. The road at the bottom of the hill was busy with traffic; the locals came in throngs to visit as it is apparently popular as a picnic place at weekends. There were also many vendors around the area selling hand-made souvenirs and also home-made local delicacies and cakes.There were many local restaurants at the sides of the road serving Cambodian meals freshly cooked with ingredients from the neighboring farms.
We climbed 509 stairs to the top of Phnom Oudong. The climb was pretty easy as there was sufficient shade; which kept us from getting too warm. At the top, there were majestic views of the Cambodian countryside. We observed the beautiful 16th century architecture as well as appreciated the small villages, rice farms, and palms wineries scattered across the countryside below.
When we reached the top, we were greeted by the silver-colored PreahSanchakMonyChedai. It is a new stupa, as the construction was only finished in 2002. It houses relics from Buddha himself which made Phnom Oudong one of the most sacred places in Cambodia. It is surrounded by serpent deities, elephants and lions. I have learned that this structure holds three small pieces of the Buddha’s bones and there are also plenty of animal statues.
South of the stupa, there were a couple of pagoda-shaped structures which were the burial sites of the past kings of Cambodia, back in the day when Oudong was the capital. The pagodas were stunningly decorated with intricate carvings displaying a cross section of Buddhist and Hindu motifs.
Another important remnant that we saw as we walked further down south was the Arthaross Temple, also known as Temple of Eighteen Points because there were 18 points or corners built into the temple’s structure.I learned that it contains the remnants of the large Buddha statue that was destroyed by the Khmer Rouge. This statue is unique because the Buddha faced north instead of the traditional direction of east. It was believed to depict the power of the Khmer Empire at the time.
It was a great day full of activity. We stayed in Oudong for a couple of hours in order to appreciate the majestic views and the fresh air of the countryside before we headed back to Phnom Penh.
Little Lilly Travel Tip:
What to bring? Bring a camera, Oudong is very picturesque, and a bottle of water.
When to go there? Get there early as the midday sun makes walking up the hills a little tough.
How to get there? You can travel by tuktuk, local bus, motorbike or taxi.
What to prepare? Take some information about the site because the signs pointing to Oudong are not written in English.
Others? There are some local children who will ask you to take them as your guides. I can’t give assurance how informative they are, but if you don’t want a guide, it’s best to give them a polite but firm no from the start.