The Most Famous Buddhist Temple in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Webpage for Phnom Penh`s Culturally Symbolic, Important yet Eccentric Buddhist Temple
What and Where is Wat Phnom?
Wat Phnom is a sacred Buddhist pagoda prominently sat atop a small hill in the Cambodian capital city of Phnom Penh where it has been a central site in the city as religious sanctuary for prayers and offerings since 1373.
The current version of the temple was originally rebuilt in 1926 before undergoing a full facelift in 1998 and at a height of 27 metres Wat Phnom is the tallest temple and religious site in the city due to its hill top stature referenced in its name which translates literally as “Pagoda Mountain”.
The temple is very important during certain Khmer Public holidays, especially during Khmer New Year when traditional games are played in front of the temple every year and it is also quite prominent for Pchum Benh / Festival of the Dead which is an animist type of ancestor worship or respect offerings.
Despite Phnom Penh’s ever expanding concrete metropolis of flyovers and office blocks it is the powerful presence of Wat Phnom that still dominates the area between the Tonle Sap and the north of the city center, the other sites of note in the area include a massive fortress style US Embassy, a French Colonial Post Office and the equally colonial Raffles Hotel located on Michael Howe Street.
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History of Wat Phnom's Flower Clock from France and China
The giant flower clock at Wat Phnom is one of the temple's most striking visual elements due to its nearly 20 meter width.
It is located at the top of Norodom Boulevard directly in front of a monument that celebrates the recapture of Cambodia's key western provinces of Battambang, Siem Reap and Banteay Meanchey from Thailand in 1907.
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The original clock came from France and had been installed since the 1960s but in the year 2000 it was replaced by a new version as a gift from China to mark the friendship between the two countries.
Quoted at the time to have cost $90,000 US Dollars the new flower clock has an automatic GPS timing system with back up power for up to 36 hours and has the ability to play the Cambodian national anthem twice a day during sunrise and sunset.
How popular is Wat Phnom for Cambodians and Foreign Tourists nowadays?
Wat Phnom remains one of Phnom Penh’s most visited and highly visible site that is as popular as ever at attracting all kinds of people imaginable from dawn to dusk every single day who come and go around the roundabout surrounding the temple.
The largest groups of visitors are made of up local Khmers ranging from rich Lexus driving businessmen to office workers on their lunch break to provincial rice farmers visiting the big city who all come to Wat Phnom to make offerings and pray for good luck.
At the same time a steady stream of Taxis, Buses and Tuk Tuks filled with eager tourists arrive throughout each day to walk up, down and around for an hour or so of sightseeing, photography and even a prayer or two to the Gods while engaging with smiling vendors proudly display their best food and beverage offerings of Coca Cola, fresh coconuts and fried insects.
Aside from humans other notable visitors have included Sambo the Elephant who was a much loved part of the temple environment for many years unlike the roaming groups of gangster monkeys who are not much loved by either locals, tourists or the Phnom Penh authorities.
It is a cool place to visit but the scene and atmosphere changes somewhat as darkness falls but during the day it is great for all ages and nationalities.
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