Cambodia is a Theravada Buddhist country, and in Phnom Penh you are never far from a Buddhist pagoda (wat.) Dozens of wats dot the city with at least one located in almost every neighborhood. Though many of the wats are comparatively modern, Phnom Penh’s original five wats were established in the 15th century and all are still functioning.
Pagoda grounds are colorful and photogenic places and most are open and welcoming to the general public. But if you visit a pagoda please be respectful of the place and people. Dress conservatively, remove your hat on pagoda grounds, remove your shoes before entering the vihear (main temple) and respect the privacy of monks and worshippers. The following short list of pagodas include some of the city’s more historic and photogenic wats, as well as being in areas popular with visitors. See Ray Zepp’s book ‘A Field Guide to Cambodia Pagodas’ for a more complete list and description of Phnom Penh’s pagodas.
Location: Street 7, 100 meters from the Royal Palace
Wat Botum is a colorful, photogenic wat, the compound crowded with ornate stupas, including the towering ‘Buddha’s Relic Stupa.’ Though Wat Botum took its present structure in 1937 it is one of the city’s original wats, possibly founded by King Ponhea Yat in the 15th century, the first king to rule from Phnom Penh.
Location: Located in the heart of the city, on Monivong and Street 174.
One of the city’s five original wats, established in the early 15th century. The main building was destroyed in the 1970s and rebuilt in the 90s. This pagoda has become a refuge for stray and abandoned house pets. If you want to adopt a cat, this is the place to come.
Location: Just southwest of the Independence Monument
In Boeung Keng Kang (BKK1) near the Independence Monument. Reputedly one of Phnom Penh’s original wats (1422). Estab-lished as a sanctuary for the Holy Writings and a meeting place for Khmer and Sri Lankan monks, and named in honor of the meetings.
Location: North end of Norodom Blvd.
Small hill crowned by an active wat (pagoda) marks the legendary founding place of the Phnom Penh. The hill is the site of constant activity, with a steady stream of the faithful trekking to the vihear, shrines and fortune tellers on top and a constellation of vendors, visitors and motodups at the bottom.
The legend of the founding of Wat Phnom is tied to the beginnings of… (see above)
Location: Sothearos Blvd. about 200m north of the Royal Palace
This sprawling pagoda in the heart of the riverfront district is as impressive from across the street as the interior – its golden temples and towering stupas defining the streetscape. It is also particularly accustomed to receiving walk-in visitors. Wat Ounalom is the home to the Buddhist patriarch and is reputedly the oldest Buddhist foundation in the city, probably predating the abandonment of Angkor in the 15th century.