Completing our journey in Siem Reap, we head off to Phnom Penh next for another 2 days of exploration.
We choose to fly to Phnom Penh instead of taking the 8 hours road journey by car. Unfortunately for us, our flight were delayed for several hours hence we were stuck in the small and simple airport.
When we finally arrived in Phnom Penh Airport, we were way behind our original schedule. Our wonderful travel agent, Asian Overland Services (Cambodia) did a great job in swapping our itinerary immediately and arranging for our lunch to be moved to a closer venue to the airport. This was indeed a gesture that we truly appreciate as we were already famish by the time we arrived.
After lunch, we head to Wat Phnom, located in the charming central point, a Buddhist temple build in 1373 and stands 27 metres above the ground. It is the tallest religious structure in the city. The pagoda was given the name of Wat Preah Chedey Borapaut.
Legend relates that a wealthy widow called Penh (commonly referred to as Daun Penh – Grandmother Penh – in Khmer) found a large koki tree in the river. Inside the tree she found four bronze statues of the Buddha. Penh constructed a small shrine on an artificial hill made by the people living in the village to protect the sacred statues. Eventually this became a sacred site and sanctuary where people would make blessings and pray.
Then it came to the year of the snake 1437 suggests King Ponhea Yat ordered His Excellency Decho Srei to raise the mount even higher when he finished building the new Royal Palace in the new city he then named Krong Chaktomok Mongkol or simply known as Phnom Penh. The prominent stupa immediately west of the sanctuary contains the ashes of the king and his royal family.
The sanctuary itself was rebuilt several times in the 19th century and again in 1926. The interior has a central altar complex with a large bronze seated Buddha surrounded by other statues, flowers, candles and items of devotion and worship. The walls are covered with murals, especially of Jataka stories of the Buddha’s earlier reincarnations before his enlightenment. There are also murals depicting stories from the Reamker, the Khmer version of the Ramayana. The newer murals in the bottom tiers are somewhat balanced, traditional and modern.
The southwest corner of the vihear and stupa, is a small shrine dedicated to Lady Penh. The front is often crowded with the faithful bringing their prayers and food offerings to the woman deemed responsible for the founding of the wat.
Wat Phnom is the center of celebration during Khmer New Year, and Pchum Ben.
Wat Phnom ( វត្តភ្នំ)
Next, we started our tour around the living fabric of Phnom Penh. We went around seeing some of the iconic buildings of the city, the National Library (Le Bibliotheque), the classic Raffles Hotel Le Royal, the deserted Railway Station and the French Embassy, the site of the final evacuation of foreigners still in the city when the Khmer Rouge took over in 1975.
We head for the former colonial quarter to look at the gorgeous French colonial-era buildings that have been restored near the Post Office such as Van’s Restaurant and to see the locations used in the fil, City of Ghosts. We visit Lycee Sisowath, the first establishment in 1873 before sweeping onto The Building, built in the New Khmer Architecture style of the 50s and 60s to find out more about the current living conditions of the city’s residents.
After a wonderful dinner in Ngon Restaurant, we took a short walk around the centre of the city to check out Phnom Penh @ night.
Wonderful Khmer Dinner @ Ngon Restaurant
Night walk around
We ended the tiring day retreating back to our accommodation for the next 2 nights, NagaWorld Hotel.