Sunday, May 25, 2008
At Phnom Oudong, as you climb the set of steps just past the Neak Ta called Lok Ta Dambong Daek, you encounter an unusual mixture of Muslim and Buddhist faiths, with both having shrines on top of this small hillock. The Cham population around Oudong is one of the largest in the country and unlike most Muslims, they pray only once a week. The view from both shrines is fantastic as you look out across the flat plains of Kandal province. The small Mosque is called Vihear Cham Ta San and is attended to by white-skullcapped laymen, while more steps take you to the Buddhist shrine of Neak Pean and the stupa of one of Cambodia's Kings from the 16th century, Preah Bat Chan Reachea. Next to the chedi are the remains of a large laterite and sandstone Buddha that was destroyed during the fighting that beset Phnom Oudong during the long civil war. Two lines of beheaded military-style seated worshippers, two studiously-carved giant feet and a head with tight curls is all that is left of the massive Buddha that once sat on a large plinth. This is just the beginning of what Phnom Oudong has to offer for those prepared to defy the heat and humidity and to continue the climb.