Wat Phnom: A Buddhist Temple from 14th Century

One of the best things to do in Phnom Penh is to visit the exquisite Wat Phnom. The mesmerizing temple of Wat Phnom was built in 1372 and remained on the main slope in Phnom Penh, which granted its name to the Cambodian capital. This temple was initially built to house four sculptures of the Buddha found in a tree gliding in the close by river. So, if you have a knack for culture, religion as well as history, you will surely love this heritage site.

Wat Phnom

Wat Phnom means the hill temple. It is a traditional Buddhist temple and dates back to the 14th century. You will fall for the tranquility and lush green environment inside the complex. It is one of the most significant temples in Phnom Penh. Wat Phnom also holds the record of being the tallest temple in Phnom Penh.

It stands high, on an 88-foot-tall, human-made mound. The greenery and the beauty of the garden make you feel calm and relaxed. You will feel like you are in another world, devoid of any noise, traffic and pollution. Festivals and concerts take place in the vast grounds, during New Year celebration in Cambodia.

As the Legend Goes…
According to the local legend, a widow, Daun Chi Penh, discovered four bronze statues of Lord Buddha in a floating tree, in the flooded river of Tonle Sap. She, with the help of local residents, built an 88-foot high mound. And then she erected a shrine there to hold the Buddha statues.

If we are to believe in another theory, King Ponhea Yat constructed Wat Phnom in the year 1422. He was the last king of the Khmer civilization. People believe that the largest stupa of Wat Phnom still carries his mortal remains.

History of Wat Phnom

The heritage site has to be rebuilt again and again due to various reasons. The temple that you now get to see dates back to 1926. Wat Phnom needed reconstruction last in 1926.  During the French colonization, the French people made some modifications in the structure of the gardens. Dictator Pol Pot made specific alterations during the 1970s. To serve various religious as well as political interests, several new statues made a way into the temple complex. You can witness modifications in shrines too, according to Hindu and Taoist beliefs.  

The faded mural that you will see above the largest statue of Lord Buddha is absolutely original. It never needed any restoration.

Special Attractions in and Around Wat Phnom

There are many fascinating things in and around Wat Phnom which you must witness. Let’s have a look at the list:

•  The authentic mural painting on the ceiling, above the largest statue of Lord Buddha, in the main worship area.
•  The small shrine of Daun Chi Penh
•  The largest stupa of Wat Phnom Temple, which still carries the remains of King Ponhea Yat.
•  Beautiful paintings that depict stories of the period before Buddha's enlightenment.
•  Shrine of Preah Chau. Vietnamese devotees worship the shrine.
•  The stupa behind Wat Phnom. Large tree roots have torn apart the stupa.

Structure and Layout of Wat Phnom

•  A grand eastern staircase will welcome you at the entrance. Lion and naga balustrades guard the grand staircase. People believe that this temple brings good luck to them. Devotees, after fulfilment of their wishes and prayers, offer a bunch of bananas or a garland of jasmine flowers at the temple.

•  Wat Phnom saw reconstructions in the year 1434, 1806, 1894 and 1926. The largest stupa that contains the ashes of the King Ponhea Yat is on the west of Wat Phnom. On the south, a statue of smiling Lady Penh is there, on the passage, between the temple and the stupa.

•  Towards the north is the shrine of genie Preah Chau. The entrance to the main altar has guardian spirits on both sides. They bear iron bats.

•  Apart from these. There is an arts and crafts center, down the hill, on the North-West corner of the complex. Disabled people and women sell silks, jewelry, ceramics, sculptures etc. in this arts and crafts center.

Things to Take Care While Visiting Wat Phnom

•  Keep an eye on your bags and other belongings. Petty thieves may be around the Wat Phnom temple complex because of the large crowd of travelers.

•  Try to avoid visiting the temple during Cambodian New Year if you are a peace lover. Traffic gets unruly at that time. Visitors flock in Wat Phnom in huge numbers during those days.

•  Beware of the monkeys in Wat Phnom temple complex. Try to drop something for them to eat from time to time in order to avoid monkey bites!

How to Reach Wat Phnom?

To reach Wat Phnom, you can either walk seven blocks northeast from the Central Market or follow the busy route of Norodom Boulevard.

If you land at Suvarnabhumi Airport, you can acquire the following transport system to reach Wat Phnom:

•  Bus – 1 hour 22 minutes – 26.8 km – $5
•  Train – 48 minutes – 37.3 km – $2-$3
•  Taxi Rental – 26 minutes – 37.4 km – $15-$19
•  Self-Drive – 26 minutes – 37.4 km – $3-$4 (fuel cost)
•  Shuttle – 26 minutes – 37.4 km –  $13-$18
•  Town Car – 26 minutes – 37.4 km –  $27-$38

Key Details

Keep in mind the following details for a smoother journey experience:

•  Entry fees: US $1
•  Visiting hours: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
•  Visiting days: Open on all days
•  Pro tip: Make sure you wear clothes that cover your knees and shoulder. Remember, you are visiting a temple. Try to avoid any sort of revealing dress.

Pack your bags and head out on your trip to Phnom Penh. Hope you love visiting Wat Phnom.


Nearby Attractions:

Cambodia Post Office    Wat Ounalom    Phnom Penh's Night Market    Sisowath Quay