Sunday, April 28, 2013

More Monk Mania at Wat Phnom

Wat Phnom is a beautiful temple at the top of a small (27 meter) hill in downtown Phnom Penh.  Appropriately enough, the name means "Hill Temple".  It was built in 1373.  Wat Phnom is only a 3-block walk from our hotel.

Clean lines in the monument at the top of the temple

Phnom Penh ("Penh's Hill") is named after Wat Phnom.  Legend has it that a wealthy widow named Daun Penh found 4 bronze Buddha statues in a tree floating down the river. To protect the statues, she constructed a small shrine on an artificial hill built by the local villagers.  It eventually became a sacred site, and a temple was built around it.

Walking on the twisting path up to the top was quick but enjoyable.

Park setting at the bottom of the hill
Large serpent has other people in mind for dinner
The hill provides a good viewpoint over flat Phnom Penh

The temple's front entrance was understated.....

Not too much hoopla just outside of the temple
Statue detail directly in front

.....but the shrine and the paintings on the walls and ceilings inside were pretty spectacular.

We saw several monks while we were leaving the temple.  In Cambodia, a significant percentage of young men become monks for a while, eschewing worldly things for a couple of years before returning to civilian life.

Boys join the monastery for a couple of reasons.  Of course, it builds character, a spiritual quality and concern for other human beings.  More practically, it is the only way that many poor Cambodians can afford an education.  Both our temple tour guide Chek and our Projects Abroad staff member Reyseang (Rey) were monks at one time.

The monks do their best "Abbey Road" album cover imitation

Wat Phnom was our first sightseeing activity on our first full day (a Sunday) in Phnom Penh.  We had taken it easy earlier in the day, to catch up on some blogging at the hotel. We also needed to get some extra rest, after our busy last few days in Siem Reap and the long bus ride to Phnom Penh.  So it was after 5 PM by the time we finished our short visit to Wat Phnom.

Sarah consults the map and contemplates our next move

Is it Happy Hour yet?

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