Phnom Penh has a lot to offer when it comes to temples and their history. Religion is very much alive here and the amazing buildings that can be found all over the region are landmarks that attract many visitors from all over the world.
One of the temples that cannot be missed when visiting Phnom Penh is Wat Phnom, a sacred Buddhist pagoda. This temple is known as a central place in the city of Phnom Penh, where prayers and offerings have been made since 1373. Wat Phnom is situated at the top of a hill and is the tallest religious building in the capital. Wat Phnom means “pagoda mountain” and is 27 meters tall. The temple plays a very important part in the celebration of the Khmer new year when the location is the place where traditional games are played in front of the temple. During the Pchum Benh festival, the festival of the dead, Wat Phnom is visited to make offerings and to worship ancestors.
Legend tells of Daun Penh (the Lady Penh), a rich woman who one day discovered a koki tree trunk on the banks of the Tonle Sap river. Daun Penh examined the tree trunk and saw that the trunk was hollow and had something hidden inside it. Inside she found four bronze buddhas, which she took as a sign that she had to build a shrine to Buddha.
Near her home she created a hill out ofsoil from which she would make a shrine to protect the buddhas. This hill was to be the place that people could come to for prayers and blessings from Buddha. The hill was called the “mountain of Daun Penh” or Phnom Penh. By the year 1432 the area was known as Phnom Penh and had been declared capital city. After Angkor was invaded king Pnhea Yat added to the building of Wat Phnom and declared it to be an official sanctuary. Around the same time the monasteries of Wat Koh and Wat Lanka were founded. Wat Phnom was and still is the most prominent main holy pagoda of Phnom Penh.
To access the mountain and the pagoda you can buy a ticket from the booth at the bottom of the hill. The money from the ticket booth is used to pay for the security guards and cleaners working on site. The scenery is amazing and the area still has a mesmerizing atmosphere. There are local guides available who can give you a tour of the hill and the temple, but of course it is also possible to look around without a tour guide. Wat Phnom is definitely worth a visit and should be on the itinerary of any tourist visiting the Phnom Penh area. When visiting there is a chance that you will encounter the group of macaque monkeys living by the temple. They are used to stealing food and drinks as well as items from tourists and should not be approached for photos. Enjoy your trip to Wat Phnom!