Going to Cambodia really awakened the heritage buff in me. In four days that I went around there, I learned about a bit of Buddhism. Here in the Philippines since we are a Catholic country, we got churches. In Singapore it was the Chinese temples that made me amazed and in Malaysia, the mosques are fantastic. One thing that I really made sure to visit in Phnom Penh is the Wat Phnom. To my research the city is named after this so I got curious what is in here.
I rode a tuktuk for $2 only and it took me about ten minutes to reach Wat Phnom. It led me to a man-made hill about 27 meters high. From a distance you will see a towering stuppa but before you climb all foreigners should pay at the entrance for a dollar. What I like about Cambodia is that they predominantly use the US Dollars so it was such a convenience because their local currency, the riel is a bit of confusing. One dollar is equal to 4, 000+ riel so in some occasions that I have to pay through this, I am blown away at how we talk about big amount of numbers. For instance $5 is already 21, 000 riel. How much more if we are already talking like thousands of dollars, what would that be in riel?
Going back after pay I looked around trying to find Sam Bo, an old veteran with his owner who have been offering rides for decades around this temple. I did not found him and I wished I tried to aske where is this duo now. What I saw is a man I also saw this huge flower clock to the right before you climb the hill up. It looked ordinary though my online reading says this costs $90, 000 to build! It has an automatic GPS timing system with a backup power for 36 hours. It is also said that this flower clock in Wat Phnom can play the Cambodian anthem twice a day during sunset and sunrise. I did not even bothered to take a photo of it.
A legend says that in the 13th century, a wealthy widow saw a floating tree along the Tonle Sap river during a flood. Inside it she found four Buddha bronzes. Her name is Daun Chi Penh or sometimes called as Lady Penh. She took it as a reverend sign so she asked help from her fellow neighbors to build a shrine on top to hold Buddha. Thus the city was named after her.
When I went inside a lot of Buddha figures greeted me in different sizes, one even shows like lying sidewards and the palm holding the side of the head. I really wanted to know if these four floating Buddha bronzes are kept here but unfortunately all of the locals there speak too little English. There’s an old guy who is offering some kind of palm reading which I am willing to pay for a dollar or so but he can only speak French. Also I was looking for a pamphlet or a small brochure for me to get more information but they have none.
Unlike the Toul Sleng Genocide and S21 Prison I also visited in this city they have a fantastic audio tour including a brochure so you are sure to know a lot. Though this one dates back to the 13th century, the whole edifice looked liked it never reached a hundred years. The current built of this temple was done in 1926 only. Pol Pot who is like the Hitler of Cambodia made many modifications of Wat Phnom too.
The west side of vihara or the temple sanctuary is where the ashes of King Ponhea Yat who ruled in 14th century. The space inside actually is pretty small but it is filled with a lot of signs of praises. I also see a lot of mothers offering incense sticks and vowing their heads to the ground. I also saw a lot of fake money bills scattered everywhere in the parts of Buddha statues. In the south there is a statue dedicated to Madame Penh.
It is really fine to take photos everywhere in Wat Phnom so I have lots of. I went through the door at the back, saw big candles and another small alter for Buddha. I also saw two ladies selling I am not sure if it was candles or incense sticks. The one that caught my attention are the these big and good looking flowers that come either in violet and white colors only. It seems that this is the only type of flowers they use to offer to Buddha. I wished to ask what is the name, again most of them are not keen to speak basic English. Oh there was one guy I was able to talk, but his accent is really hard to understand.
I walked a bit further at the side until the very back, the place is really clean. I also saw this one like an altar and this is I always see this in every house in Cambodia even in Mad Monkey Hostel where I stay. I tried to ask the tuktuk drivers what is it called, they cant explain what it is in English.
I am also fascinated by these women selling small birds inside a cage that remind me of the local maya bird here. For $1 you can have one bird and I think say a wish or whisper a prayer then throw it to the air. I heard that these birds inside the cage are trained to go back to the cage by the owners. What a great business they got there.
The Wat Phnom is open from 7am to 630 Pm every day.