Do you know how Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia got its name?
Take a break from the bustle of Phnom Penh and take a serene walk through the park of this exquisitely built Wat Phnom roundabout situated up on a hillock, where the city got its name.
According to the legend, when a wealthy widowed Khmer woman named Daun Penh was dawdling by the riverbank, she found a Koki tree and she noticed four bronze statues of the Buddha inside it. She took the statues out and constructed a small shrine on a manmade hill. Then in 1437 King Ponhea Yat named the new city as Krong Chaktomok Mongkol or Phnom Penh. Through the years, it became a sacred site and sanctuary where people pray for more blessings, to make wishes for good luck and success in business or school.
Wat Phnom was built in the north of the city center in 1372, and stands 27 meters high above the sea level. To the north, you will see a busy market. To the west, you could choose to drop into a café. To the southeast, you can see the Post Office Square, which gives you a glimpse into Phnom Penh’s colonial past, the Chinese House and The Exchange, both offering a contemporary take on beautiful historical buildings and great food.
Wat Phnom is a very calm area in the middle of a beautiful garden. It has a great park for people to relax. It has many old Buddha statues of different types as well as wall paintings. At the west of the sanctuary there is a prominent stupa that contains the ashes of the king and his royal family. There are stunning views of the grounds and the buildings. This is a good place to witness real religious habits and tradition from Cambodian people.
I think the temple’s most striking element is the giant flower clock that has 20 meter circumference. I have learned that the original clock was a gift from France which was installed in 1960s and in 2000 it was re-installed with a newer version which was a gift from China.
We have been there quite a few times, and we’ve always had a nice walk. The temple at the top is really impressive, the vegetation is magnificent and the structures are fascinating, but most importantly the historical background makes it more worthwhile to check out.
Wat Phnom is a beautiful temple, and it’s certainly a zen place in the middle of the bust city.
Little Lilly travel tips:
- The best time to visit the place is from 4PM to 6PM – at this time it’s not too crowded and not too hot.
- The entrance fee is $1 for foreigners.
- You can buy a songbird at the entrance and release it.
- There are always quite a few mischievous monkeys around Wat Phnom, so keep an eye on your soda, your snack, your wallet and your smartphone (a monkey stole my Coca-Cola once and would just not give it back).