Monday, October 28, 2013

Sites : Oudong Temple, Cambodia

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Oudong, Cambodia - October 2013
The Oudong temple, a site that is often missed by foreign tourists, is a series of beautiful old temples sitting on the ridge of Mount Oudong. Oudong is about forty kilometres north of Phnom Penh. To reach it take National Highway No. 5; proceed north and just after the Oudong Market make a left . Continue one for another six kilometre and you will have arrived.

The road at the foothills are busy with traffic, locals comes in throngs to visit especially during the weekends. Many vendors ply the area, selling hand-made souvenirs and also home-made local titbits and cakes.

To the sides of the road are many restaurants serving Cambodian meals freshly cooked with ingredients from the neighbouring farms (... see Cambodian Lunch @ Oudong blog).


I would suggest having something to eat at least before going up to the temples, the route up is a series of stairs totalling 509 steps to reach the first stupa at the top.

As one climbs up, along the way donations can be made to Buddhist monks collection alms to help the needy.

Off to one corner, one can also donate some money for good luck at the respective baskets to one's respective animal of the Chinese Zodiac. This collection will probably go to the upkeep of the temples.

Almost near the stop of the long flight of stairs, a peep of the first stupa silhouetted against the sky.


The first Stupa, a relatively new one, sits on two platform.

From the lower of this platform, one can get a magnificent view of the Cambodian countryside.

A zoomed-in view of the Khmer temple at the foothills.

Sitting atop the second platform, the first stupa is looks fairly new, probably built just about a few years ago. Mult-tiered and from the a multi-sided squarish bottom it tapers to a pagoda like top.

Off-white in colour, guardian lions and naga statues sit on its many corners, dissuading evil from entering. The cornices and pagoda have intricately carved flowery patterns.

A golden doorway protects the privacy of the inner sanctum of this stupa. I tried asking on what lies inside, but did not get a firm answer. Perhaps inside are the remains of a royalty who has passed not to long ago. Flowers left at this doorway does give some hint of this.

An archway protects this door from the weather.

For good luck, sparrows can be purchased and released back into the wild. Hopefully they won't be caught again and will really be free.


The second stupa seem to come from an era when simplicity was the name of the game. Although with a multi-faceted many tiered base similar to that of the first, it's line are more Spartan without much elaboration of fine carving to enhance it.

This makes it's edges sharper and its corners more pronounced. Its position on the highest point of the ridge and its simplicity makes it the most distinctly noticeable stupa from afar.

From close up it' stark edges can be seen, they are flat edges only. The cornices are simplified too.

The lower base is lined with statues of many elephants.


The third stupa seems to be the oldest of all four, with moses and creepers growing onto it. It's style is quite similar to the third one, i.e. straight edges with not to much enhancements in terms of carvings.

Though looking the oldest, it is oddly the most colourful of all - porcelain green leaves and red flowers lines its edges.

A close up look shows even more flowery motifs in colourful orange, red, yellow and green.


This stupa although unique seems to be an enigma - it's design contrast with the others in the sense that it has a heavier top, with the elaborate four-face king at the top seemingly wearing the top pagoda as a crown.

The yellowness don't seem to be paint but seem to be some dye mixed into the mortar that went into the construction of this stupa.

Zooming in on the top four-faced section, I was trying to make out whether this was the face of Buddha, it does not look so. It looked more like a king of the ancient Khmer empire, probably the one who built these stupas.

The base with its elaborate baluster railings.

On one wall of its base is a table engraved with some Sanskrit text. My guide was not able to translate it, mentioning that it seems to be an older form of the Khmer language. Below the tablet is a carving of a Garuda, a mythical beast of the Hindu religion. This would make these temples at Oudong preceding the advance of Buddhism to this region, making Oudong as old as Angkor or even older. That would make it at least a millennia old. Impressive!


Past the fourth stupa, are other structures - smaller stupas, windowless brick buildings that are mausoleums to the king, and his grandfather. The mausoleums were without roofs, these were added later.

Ahead, up some steps is a building that seems to be half constructed...

This nondescript half-completed building houses a hall in which there is a giant golden sitting Buddha statue. From the looks of it, the statues must have been in the open; the building being just constructed to roof and protect it.

Beyond that Hall of The Sitting Buddha, one starts going down hill. Along the way a many minor buildings and smaller stupas. Right at the bottom is a ruin overgrown with creepers.
I wonder then, what is the history behind Oudong? I have searched the net but it tells me nothing much, perhaps some kind soul can enlighten me.

You may also like :

Cambodian Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
An eerie museum dedicated to those who perished during a period
that the country would rather forget but must remember, Phnom Penh.

Malaysia - Khoo Kongsi's Art & Architecture,
George Town, Penang : January 2013
Beautiful art & architecture at the Khoo Kongsi,
a grand & majestic clan-house.
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