Phnom Penh is not short on interesting day trips, but a trip to Phnom Oudong, Cambodia’s former royal capital, must rank highly for any visitor to the region.
Oudong town itself is approximately 45 kilometres north of Phnom Penh city in Kampong Speu province and is easily reachable on a day trip. Oudong or Udong literally translates as ‘victorious’ in Khmer and it was the official capital of Cambodia under several kings’ reigns between 1618 and 1866. A number of kings, including King Norodom, the present king’s father, were crowned at Oudong.
How to get to Phnom Oudong
There are 3 ways you can get from Phnom Penh to Oudong:
The easiest, but not the cheapest option is to hire a car with driver to take you there for about $40 to $45 return and will take around 1 hour from the city.
You can hire a tuk-tuk to take you there and back for about $25 return although the journey will take you between 90 minutes to 2 hours.
For the adventurous traveller or those on a budget look to find a shared taxi in the Sorya Bus Terminal near the Central Market. You have to be patient as shared taxis will leave only when full, and once there, there are no guarantees of finding a shared taxi back. However, a return journey (if you can find one!) will cost you around $5!
After arriving, you will be dropped off at the base of the mountain where you can arrange for your driver to wait for you. There are 506 well-maintained steps leading to the top, all with sumptuous shade created by the leafy forest all around you.
The climb is easy for most travellers, however, it is advised that you take water and refreshments to enjoy on the many stop off points along the way. There are many local children who will offer to guide you as you walk up for a small fee, although, the path is clearly marked if you prefer to explore on your own.
The characteristic twin peaks of Phnom Oudong or Oudong Mountain have several pagodas, a giant Buddha statue and stunning views of the Cambodian countryside. Also visible from the top of Phnom Oudong is Phnom Preah Reach Throap or Hill of the Royal Fortune. Named after a 16th-century Khmer king who is said to have hidden gold and national treasures here during a war with the Thais.
There are several very important religious monuments at the summit of Oudong Mountain and has recently been added to the list of potential UNESCO World Heritage sights. The important remnants include the burial sites of several Khmer kings in addition to religious artefacts dating back several hundred years.
One of the first stupas that you will be greeted with is the beautifully silvered coloured Preah Sakyamoni Chedi, which houses some of the Buddha’s remains and is one of the holiest places for Cambodian Buddhists. Thanks to the lack of publications and information on Phnom Oudong, foreign visitors are few and far between, however, Oudong can get busy at the weekend with Cambodian visitors.
Just south of the Preah Sakyamoni Chedi stupa you can walk to several more pagodas. These are the burial sights of many of Cambodia’s former kings in the times when Oudong was the country’s capital. These pagodas are ordained in beautiful, intricate Buddhist and Hindu carvings, a true reward for your journey to the mountain.
A little farther south, roughly a 10-minute walk, is the Arthaross Temple. It contains the remnants of a famous Buddha statue that was destroyed during the Khmer Rouge. The statue was considered unique in Cambodia due to the fact that it faced north as opposed to the traditional east, signifying the power of the Khmer Empire at the time it was built.