A Visit to Cambodia’s Old Capital – Oudong
Oudong is the former capital of Cambodia, it is built on a hill of the same name. Oudong (also spelt Udong) was the capital from 1618 until 1866, when the French convinced King Norodom to move the royal court to Phnom Penh.
Oudong is situated about 40km northwest of Phnom Penh. You can travel there by tuk tuk, local bus, motorbike or taxi, a taxi costs around $20 there and back.
It’s always nice to travel to a tourist site and have the place to yourself. I visited Oudong on a Wednesday and I only came across one other tourist. Apparently it’s popular with locals at the weekends.
Oudong is a series of temples and stupas on a picturesque hillside setting. The hillside location means that there are spectacular views. Don’t forget your camera – Oudong is very picturesque. Get there early as the midday sun made walking up the hills a little tough going.
Oudong is a charming mix of the old and new. There are stupas and shrines to by-gone kings. Many of which were built after Oudong ceased to be Cambodia’s capital. Some of the shrines are deceptively new. Sanchak Mony Chedai, which is surrounded by serpent deities, elephants and lions, was only finished in 2002. What makes this structure particularly revered is that it holds three small pieces of Buddha’s bones. There are also plenty of my personal favourite – gaudy animal statues.
The signs at Oudong aren’t in English. If possible it’s advisable to take information about the site with you. The Cambodia Rough Guide had a decent section on Oudong, outlining the history and routes around the complex. Local children will ask to be your guide. I can’t vouch for how informative they are, but if you don’t want a guide, it’s best to tell them (a polite) no from the outset.
Oudong is not spectacular in the same way as Angkor Wat, but it’s interesting and an easy day or half a day out from Phnom Penh.
May 1st, 2012