Despite its moderate distance to the capital city Phnom Penh – around 40 kilometres along the National Highway 5, Oudong Temple is often passed up by foreign tourists.
Situated atop a hill of the same name which itself stretches from southeast to northeast, with a low saddle in the middle, Oudong Temple is an attractive combination of the old and the new – of the Khmer architecture in the past and present. Oudong Temple, in Kampong Speu Province, comprises a sequence of stupas and shrines, which forms a huge complex of pilgrimage of paramount importance to the locals, especially before Oudong’s title of the capital city has been taken over by Phnom Penh since 1866. To some extent, the temple now is the surviving remains of the ancient capital, rendering it irresistibly mysterious with the relics of the Royal Family’s spiritual predecessors. Read more: Cambodia tours
A visit around Oudong Temple is advised to start with the highest stupa named Prasat Srey Krup Leak (Temple of the Perfect Woman). To reach this cave-resembled structure, you can follow the main stair of 509 steps and stupa at the end of the stairway.
Legend has it that at its top level, this stupa stores a relic of the Buddha – the eye-brown hair which was previously housed in a small stupa in front of Phnom Penh railway station. The stupa will decidedly amaze you with an overwhelmingly marvelous appearance, somewhat alien to the foreigners, yet one of Khmer’s unique architectural characteristic, which is also a modern one compared to other works of construction within the compound. Read more: Travel to Cambodia
From outside, you can see it is impressively decorated with a number of sophisticated animal sculptures, the most outstanding of which is the three headed elephant figure. Inside, the new building is crowed with thousands of Buddha statues in storey.
You can hardly find out anywhere else offering a more spectacular overview, from above, of the town landscape: paddy fields, several Wats and the river.
There stand the a row of three large ancient stupas at the other side off the mountain cliff which is just a bit below and on the left of the new design. They serve as the main sacred spiritual attraction of the entire complex thanks to its holding of the three successions of Cambodian Kings’ ashes so you can focus on admiring them the most – the architecture highlighted by the astonishing ornamental details.
The series of them is visible from far distance, partially hidden behind massive trees. You should watch your steps when following the pathway that leads down to the area of the three stupas from the new one owing to its location along the side of mountain slope. Symbolizing three Kings, each of them is distinguished from each other with extraordinary ornate decorations involving Garudas, elephant heads and flower. The ancient stupa remains intact, has not been renovated but faithfully preserve.
It is definitely for any tourists considering a plan half a day out of Phnom Penh., to visit the old and new parts of Oudong Temple. Despite their gap of time, they all reveal Khmer’s architectural features.
The Indochina Voyages team.
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