November 20, 2013

Cambodia is Colorful

 "SHOES OFF," read the sign at the entrance of the temple. Remembering that shoes are not allowed to be worn inside of Buddhist temples, I slid my sandals off and placed them on the nearby shoe rack.I continued into the temple sans les chaussures, feeling the hot,sun-soaked tiles under my feet. My jaw dropped as I walked into my very first Buddhist temple, Wat Phnom. 

Colorful Cambodia
The first thing I noticed was the bright colors of Wat Phnom. Saffron candles stood proudly in the temple's corners.  Burgundy bunches of incense released silver streams of smoke past the silent, yellow gold Buddha. Lilac-hued flowers lay on the ground and jasmine petals lay immersed in silver jars of water. Every inch of the temple seemed to glow.

Colorful Cambodia
While my eyes were drawn to all that was glittering and gold, Wat Phnom was a feast of scent and sound as well. I could hear the whispered chanting of loyal Buddhists who knelt before the golden alter. A light breeze stirred a clamour from tiny bronze bells. Invigorating jasmine cut through the smoky, rich scent of old-world spices that hung in the air.

I slowly walked around the central alter, upon which sat a gilded Buddha figure. The Buddha was quite stunning but my eyes were really drawn to the temple walls. Covered with murals, the walls of  Wat Phnom are painted with scenes from Buddhist mythology such as from the Reamker, the Khmer version of the Ramayana. I reveled in the paintings of gods, goddesses, elephants and men. 

Colorful Cambodia
Looking up, I noticed even more murals on the ceiling of Wat Phnom! It seemed like every inch of this temple was covered in vivid color. To this day, Wat Phnom remains one of the most impressive religious sites I've ever seen. These murals are really hard to beat!

Even the floor of Wat Phnom radiated color! I loved how delicate the fushia and cream lotus pods looked as they rested delicately over the printed tile floor. 

Colorful Cambodia
After circling the central alter, taking in the gorgeous murals and people-watching for a bit, I continued outside to have a look at the exterior of Wat Phnom. Because it is situated atop a man-made hill, Wat Phnom offers some nice views of the city. I had to dodge a few wild monkeys while walking around the temple but I found the temple's exterior to be lovely!

Colorful Cambodia
I walked down the naga-lined stairs to see a sculpture in honor of the Khmer King Sisowath. I learned that he was king during a time of fierce conflict within the country when French colonial rule became norm.

I enjoyed the beauty of Wat Phnom and I think it was a perfect introduction to Cambodia, Phnom Penh and Southeast Asian Buddhism. If you're traveling through Phnom Penh, Wat Phnom shouldn't be missed. 

ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA would like to recommend Cambodia Discovery  tour.Ancient temples, empty beaches, mighty rivers, remote forests... and (outside Angkor) only a handful of tourists. But the word is out - Cambodia has emerged from decades of war and isolation and is well and truly back on the Southeast Asian travel map. From Phnom Penh we fly to Siem Reap. At Angkor we have 3 whole days to explore the complex; from the splendor of Angkor Wat to the enigmatic faces of the Bayon and the haunting Ta Prohm temple, enveloped in the clutches of the jungle.

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