We were having a good time in Bali, but not good enough. The whole motorbike situation in Seminyak is really annoying and in all honesty the beach is not that cool. So we decided to shorten our stay and go back to Cambodia, the best place to get pampered in Southeast Asia. It was E’s idea. He visited Cambodia for the first time in 2001, and he claims it was love at first sight. My first time was in the beginning of our 5 month trip to Southeast Asia with hand luggage and I fell for it too. It’s undeniable: the food is delicious, massages are fantastic, the place is beautiful and Cambodians are friendly, polite and very professional people.
Day Trip to Oudong
Since we had already been to the most popular places, we decided to do nothing (a passion of mine) and visit unusual places, such as Oudong. For over 250 years Oudong was the capital of Cambodia until one day in the middle of the 19th Century King Norodom decided to leave. He set up his capital in Phnom Penh. Oudong remained in oblivion for decades. Unfortunately, the Khmer Rouge came into power and with the support of the United States they ravished the country. Oudong didn’t escape the atrocity and almost all of the temples and shrines were severely damaged. Today the place is a temple on a hill, surrounded by endless Cambodian fields.
Oudong is located just 40 km north of Phnom Penh, so it takes almost an hour to get there. There are of course organized day trips to Oudong, but just as everywhere else in Southeast Asia we decided to do it on our own. We took a tuc-tuc in front of our Billabong Hotel. Our tuc tuc driver was not only inexpensive but safe, knew his way around and fantastic company. The trip to Oudong was fun in its own. We saw traditional Cambodian houses on pillars and plenty of temples and mosques. It seems Cambodia’s Muslim minority lives north of Phnom Penh. Bear in mind that a tuc tuc ride to Oudong costs between 20 and 30 USD. A private car with a driver is slightly costlier.
What is Oudong Like
The old temples of Oudong crown the mountain of the same name, Oudong. Don’t forget to check the memorial at the base of the hill dedicated to the victims of the Khmer Rouge. Tuc-tucs and cars park nearby. From there you have to climb some 500 steps to reach the top. Take your time and admire the views: lush green hills covered in blooming trees. There are monkeys too! When we reached the top we were rewarded by relaxing views. To our surprise, we had the place mostly to our own, with just a few tourists around.
The main site perched on top of the hill consists of one large new temple, three main stupas, and several smaller temples. Damrei Sam Poan stupa was built by King Chey Chetha II (1618–26). The ashes of his predecessor King Soriyopor, the founder Oudong, are there. The Ang Doung stupa, in the middle, was named after the father of King Norodom. Built in 1891 by King Norodom it houses King Ang Duong’s (1845–59) ashes. The last stupa is Mak Proum, the funeral stupa of King Monivong (1927–41). It is the one that contains four faces looking into four directions.
When to Visit Oudong
The weather in Cambodia is warm all year around. There are two main seasons: dry and wet. From October to April, there is little rain. On the other hand, from May and September, it rains cats and dogs. Generally speaking, the best period to visit is from November to January. Both the temperature and humidity drop a bit. From March to June the heat can be unbearable, so try to visit early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Apparently, the place can get busy on weekends since many locals come here for a picnic, so visit on a weekday.
Be sure to bring some socks with you. Taking your shoes off is mandatory so you don’t want to burn your feet going all the way up! Also, don’t forget to bring a hat and some sunscreen. Try to bring your own water in a recyclable container. Don’t worry if you didn’t. Local vendors sell snacks and refreshments at the base of the hill. The views from the top are sure worth the effort. Therefore, don’t forget your camera and take plenty of photos. The entrance to the temples is free, but there are kids offering to tour you around the hill. Be polite to them, these nice children are here to help!
Back to the Present
Oudong is a unique place full of history. Truth be told, it is not nearly impressive as Angkor Wat. Nevertheless, there are no tourists so it’s easy to disconnect and travel back in time. Staring at the huge plateau we couldn’t help but marvel at the great civilization that lived, and still lives, in Cambodia. On our way back, we had to wrap our tuc-tuc in plastic, to protect us from a heavy summer rain shower. Directly we went to have massages, followed by delicious dinner, and a dip in the pool. Trust me: Cambodia is the place to be if you like comfort, culture, beauty and pleasure. What a treat!
Where to Stay in Phnom Penh
As you can see it is fairly easy to organize your day trip to Oudong. But in order to enjoy the full package, you need to find a great place to stay. Phnom Penh offers hotels of all categories with great service. Once more, location is everything. Near the Royal Palace, we recommend the Penh House & Jungle Addition and The Pavilion. If you like to be a bit away from the fuss, but surrounded by great restaurants and massage parlors stay at One Residence Hotel & Apartment or Feliz Urban Hotel. If you want to stay in front of the Mekong River then TAO Riverside Residence and Hotel Emion are for you. Finally, if you are into cool architecture and sophistication choose Rosewood Phnom Penh.
On the other hand, if you rather join an organized day trip to Oudong we recommend the following two (plus one river cruise):