Monday, 3 March 2008

Wat Phnom, Phnom Penh

Stupa of Wat Phnom
Temple buildings of Wat Phnom
Shrine beneath the stupa
View of Wat Phnom (Photo by Magalie L'Abbé)

Wat Phnom is the temple on the hill in Cambodia's capital city of Phnom Penh.
According to legend, in the 14th century a woman named Penh found sacred Buddhist objects in the nearby river and placed them here on the small hill that later became a temple. Phnom Penh, the name of the city, means "Penh's Hill."
Wat Phnom itself is a standard Southeast Asian wat, with Naga snakes on the cornered peaks of the roof and murals of the Buddha's life in day-glow allegories along interior walls.
Don't miss the central ceiling, which, unlike the bright walls, is yet to be restored and is gritty and authentic.
The hillside park around the temple was once a no-go zone peopled by armed dealers and pimps (in the evening you should still be careful), but now it's a laid-back little park.
You're sure to meet with some crafty young salesmen here who will offer you the chance to show your Buddhist compassion by buying a caged bird for a dollar and letting it go. Stick around long enough, and you'll see the bird return to the comfort of the cage.

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