If you are looking for a chilled out day trip from Phnom Penh and don’t mind a bit of walking, head to Oudong for a spiritual day out amongst it’s stupas, shrines and temples. You will also be in for some magnificent views from Oudong hill. This was one of my last days in Cambodia, and one of my favourites!
Where is Oudong Geographically?
Oudong is a popular town in Cambodia, located in the north-western part of the Kampong Speu Province. Situated at the foothill of the mountain Phnom Udong, known as Phnom Preah Reach Troap, around 40 km northwest of the modern capital Phnom Penh, Udong was royal residence and Cambodia’s capital for around 250 years until 1866. A colossal royal necropolis of sovereigns of many centuries is scattered on top of the prominent intersected mountain, which runs from the northeast to the southeast.
Visiting Oudong Mountain
How to get to Oudong Mountain
Public buses and shared taxis travel to Oudong from Phnom Penh and cost just a couple of dollars each way. It takes about an hour to travel from the present-day capital to the preceding capital. You can also opt for a more convenient means of transportation, a tuk-tuk. The journey will take just over an hour, passing through rural areas and beautiful scenery. You’ll pay around $30 for the return journey, which includes the waiting time.
I paid $35 to go with Sony Tuk-Tuk and it was well worth the money as he got out and walked all around the stupas with me and introduced me to his family! He is the best Tuk-Tuk driver that I found in Phnom Penh and I totally recommend him.
A Background to the History of Oudong
Udong acted as the Cambodian capital between 1618 and 1866. The capital saw lots of turmoil, including being ransacked by invading Thai forces, bombed by American troops, and attacked by the Khmer Rouge. Several Khmer kings were crowned in the former capital and it was once a place of splendour. After the capital moved, the city went into a greater decline, with a lot of its once-splendid monuments and buildings left to decay.
The main attractions found at Mount Udong are spread out over neighbouring peaks. There are many interesting shrines and pagodas in varying states of preservation, as well as statues and a newer temple.
Oudong Silversmith Village
If you are on a Tour or hire a tuk-tuk driver to visit Oudong then you are likely to stop at the nearby silversmith village. There are opportunities to buy jewellery and silverware as well as to see how it is traditionally made in the area.
Climbing Udong Mountain
To get to the sights, you’ll need to climb Udong Mountain, which is really just a hill. There is an even staircase which leads up the hills and a walkway that runs across the hills past all main points of interest.
The majority of people begin their mountain explorations from the northern side. The climb is not that challenging, although there are a little more than 500 steps to tackle so be sure to wear comfortable shoes and take lots of water. Several vendors sell snacks and cool drinks along the route if you’re in need of refreshments.
On Tripadvisor, there are a few people complaining about rubbish and beggars at Oudong Mountain. There wasn’t any more rubbish than what you would expect for an Asian country just 40 years post genocide. There were beggars, but they were not hassling me to give, and at a religious place in Cambodia this is to be expected.
Wat Oudong and the Hall of 1000 Buddhas
Wat Oudong is instantly recognisable — a modern grey stupa adorned with elephant heads.
Don’t miss out on the delight that is beneath the stupa — the hall of 1000 Buddhas.
Ancient Stupas of Udong
As you go along the walkway across Mount Udong you’ll pass stupas and pagodas of various sizes. These house the remains of deceased Khmer kings. The yellow-coloured Chedi Trai Trang is especially impressive. It contains the remains of King Ang Duong. Look up and you’ll notice several faces at the top of the pagoda. They are similar to those at the Bayon in Siem Reap. There are many small historic temples along the route, many in poor states of preservation.
Locals still visit the religious buildings to pray, make merit, and honour the dead, and it’s not unusual to see flowers, candles and other offerings. The heady aroma of incense often hangs in the air. Even though the buildings may look pretty ramshackle, do pause to take a peek inside. One has a replica of a holy cow image which was stolen in times gone by, showing the nation’s older Hindu roots. Another has an uncommon Buddha statue with military-like symbols.
The Temple of Arthaross
The Temple of Arthaross stands in a way of battle-scarred ruin, having been blown up by the Khmer Rouge. Within the disintegrating walls, you’ll find a new golden Buddha statue that gleams and glints in the sunshine.
Vipassana Dhura Buddhist Centre
At the foot of the mountain on the same side as the ancient stupas is the Vipassana Buddhist centre. It’s a beautiful temple and monastery that is home to male and female monks.
It’s actually possible to take part in a meditation session and to stay over in return for a donation.
A full day is definitely needed for exploring this ancient capital. I hope that you have a wonderful day at Oudong Mountain and if you have any questions, please comment below.
Get Your Guide tours of Oudong
If you would like to book a full guided tour of Oudong before you go, I recommend Get Your Guide. You can download the app and have electronic tickets.
8-Hour Cruise Round-Trip from Phnom Penh to Udong
Why not go on a river journey from Phnom Penh to Cambodia’s ancient capital Udong? Enjoy seeing the traditional riverside life of local fishermen and the incredible countryside of the Tonle Sap River pass by with its floating pagodas and houses. On arrival take a 10-minute tuk-tuk ride to the Udong Hills, core of the former capital, and see a breath-taking view over Cambodia’s rice fields, small villages and the Tonle Sap River.
Enjoy the variety of available coffee, teas, soft drinks, one alcoholic beverage provided (cocktail, beer or spirits), while sampling different appetizers. You will then have the main meal, which is a western-Asian fusion BBQ consisting of fish, shrimp, chicken, and pork, all cooked freshly and prepared on board. One bottle of white or red French wine for 4 people is also included in the price. Feel the breeze and soak in the beautiful river landscape as you go back to Phnom Penh.
From Phnom Penh: Silver Smith Village and Udong Stupas
At 08:00 AM, your Khmer guide will pick you up from your Phnom Penh guesthouse or hotel and drive you to Udong — home to many temples and three big stupas (places of prayer). The city, a UNESO World Heritage Site, was once home to a succession of kings, and you can see the phials at the three stupas.
Visit the city’s most imposing structure — the Vihara of the 18-Cubut Buddha. 30-meter-high, it is just about survived first the American bombings and the brutal regime of the Khmer Rouge. On the way back to city centre, you will have a set lunch at the local restaurant. Heading back to Phnom Penh, you will stop at the silver smith village of Kompong Luong.
What to Pack for Cambodia
Take light cotton tops, long comfortable trousers and maxi dresses that cover your shoulders. Thailand is a conservative Buddhist county and you are likely to be refused entry to top sites like the Phnom Penh Royal Palace and Angkor Wat with shoulders showing and shorts or short skirts. You can pack shorts and vest tops for hanging around your hotel or the pool.
Pack a water bottle because many guest houses are eco friendly and have a refill and reuse policy to cut down on plastic waste. The drinking water is fine and many hotels supply cold purified drinking water.
Bugs bite particularly in the evenings in Cambodia and so a bug repellant is essential. Also the sun can get hot — this Christmas and New Year temperatures were exceeding 32 degrees and so sun screen is another essential.
Travel insurance is so important as it will help you with emergencies and unexpected costs on your trip. Make sure that you declare any pre-existing health conditions so that you are covered for those. Check your cover for accidents and medical care and also lost baggage or getting things stolen. Remember to report as soon as something goes wrong on your trip because some travel insurance companies require you to report something that you want to claim for within 24 hours. Read the fine print carefully when you sign up. I always recommend World Nomads. You can get a free quote here:
Originally published at https://www.templeseeker.com on February 16, 2020.