Wat Phnom is an important place of devotion for Buddhists who, especially on Buddhist festivals, turn out in large numbers. Offerings are made not only to Buddha, but to Penh, a wealthy widow who, as legend has it, founded the temple in the 14th century. The city of Phnom Penh itself takes its name from this temple and the wealthy widow who founded it.
Access to the temple is by climbing the 88 foot hill’s temple staircase. Visitors to the temple need to pay a one dollar entrance fee. As with all Buddhist temples, respectful dress is required. Remember to remove your shoes before entering inside any of the halls.
The temple is constructed in typical Khmer style and, in fact, has been rebuilt several times. The faded ceiling murals inside the main halls, however, are original. The grounds of the temple are lively and there are sellers of various kinds, most notably those who, for a fee, will allow you to release a caged bird and earn you some karma into the bargain. It’s no secret that these birds are soon recaptured and ready to earn more karma for anyone willing to pay to set them free, temporarily. Snacks are also available from the vendors at the entrance to the temple.
Phnom Penh has many temples, but Wat Phnom, located in the north of the city, is the flagship temple. It’s well worth a visit for its historical associations with the Phnom Penh, but there are a couple of things to watch out for. These include thieves on the lookout for unattended belongings, and monkeys who’ll snatch anything that’s not securely held. It’s not a major problem for anyone who takes a reasonable amount of care. Remember the name – Wat Phnom. It’s a must see attraction for anyone visiting Phnom Penh.