What’s a wat? A wat is a Buddhist temple and there are an estimated 1080 spread throughout Cambodia. Many temples in Phnom Penh are beautiful buildings, but what I didn’t know was that they are not just spiritual places for people to go and pray, but are almost like little communities as well. The complex of a wat usually includes some kind of prayer house, stupas where remnants of important personalities or monks lie buried, exotic statues, accomodation for the monks and also housing for the disadvantaged of society who can’t afford to stay anywhere else.

wat
A lot of tourists develop some kind of temple fatigue once they have seen a few, and to be honest so did I initially, until I ventured inside a few of those temples in Phnom Penh. I was assured by my Khmer friends that what I did was indeed legal and not tresspassing. 🙂 These are my favourite temples in Phnom Penh:

Wat Ounalom

Wat Ounalom serves as the headquarters for one of Cambodia’s most revered Buddhist patriarchs. It is one of the oldest temples in Phnom Penh and is believed to contain an eyebrow hair of the Buddha in a stupa. Buddha died in 483 BCE, so I am not sure if eyebrow hairs actually last that long, but it seems that poor Buddha’s body parts are spread out all over Asia. After his death, his remains were divided into eight portions. Afterwards, these relics were enshrined in stupas wherever Buddhism was spread, despite his instructions that relics were not to be collected or venerated.

Apparently the hair of Buddha’s eyebrow is buried underneath this statue

Getting blessed by the guardian of Buddha’s eyebrow hair – or looking at his clothes, maybe he was just the maintenance man making fun of us

Dried flowers used as offerings. They will later be used to make delicious tea.

Wat Phnom

Wat Phnom is probably the most significant temple in Cambodia, as this is the place where Phnom Penh was allegedly founded in 1422. It is one of the most popular temples in Phnom Penh. Legend has it that Daun Penh, a wealthy widow, found a large koki tree in the river. Inside the tree she found four bronze statues of the Buddha. Lady Penh constructed a small shrine on an artificial hill made by the people living in the village to protect the sacred statues. Eventually this became a sacred site and sanctuary where people would make blessings and pray.

The naga ( a mystical creature half snake -half human) guarding Wat Phnom

A spirit house with incents

Buddhist prayer flags

Wat Lanka

Wat Lanka was established as a sanctuary for the Holy Writings in 1422 and has remained an important temple ever since. It is one of the most spectacular temples in Phnom Penh in my opinion.

Monks’ robes hung out for drying

Stupas at Wat Langa


A lion statue guarding the temple


Cheeky boy playing with one of the statues. Naughty…

 

Wat Botum

Last stop was Wat Botum, which translates as the Temple of the Lotus Blossoms. This is one of the most sacred temples in Phnom Penh, as this is where numerous politicians and eminent persons of the city are buried here.

Local children who eagerly followed me around


Stupas at Wat Botum

Even cats reside here
Have you got any favourite temples in Phnom Penh?

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About Tammyonthemove

Tammy & Chris are a couple hailing from Germany and England, meaning between them they are efficient and polite, but unable to talk about football. Find out why they stopped pushing pens around the British civil service to travel the world on their blog.

2 Thoughts on “What wat? – Exploring the temples in Phnom Penh

  1. We were blessed by exactly the same man at Wat Ounalom yesterday and I was also wondering about his clothes 🙂 I loved Wat Lanka very much!
    Emiel recently posted…Behind the scenes with the Nomadic Family (part 2)My Profile

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