Travel Report: Wat Preah Prom Rath, Siem Reap.
Wat Preah Prom Rath.
I remember feeling surprised by how just incredibly clean and colourful Wat Preah Prom Rath Temple is. In fact, both Sladja and I were literally blinded by columns of kaleidoscopic light as we entered the complex. These competing streams danced around us in all directions under the glare of the afternoon sun.
Wat Preah Prom Rath dates back to 1915 when local authorities built it on the site of a former Hindu temple. The main shrine didn’t open until 1945, which goes some way to explaining how shiny and new the place looks. Moreover, the custodians clearly do a great job of keeping the place so spotless. Certainly not the case for many of the pagodas and temples I’ve seen across Cambodia.
Curiously, the temple stands in dedication to an ancient folk tale about a Siem Reap monk. Once every few months, he’d travel to the city of Long Vek in order to stock up on rice. He used to come back with so much rice that he soon earned himself the nickname Preah Ang Chong Han Hoy.
This translates roughly as “monk with freshly cooked rice in his pot”. Not the catchiest nickname in the world, but hey it got the point across. Visitors to the temple can follow his story through a number of beautifully painted panels running all around the inner courtyard.
Wat Preah Prom Rath Temple, Siem Reap.
The monk used to travel to and from Long Vek by boat. In the temple garden, you can find a replica of the vessel in question. The monk even has a pot of rice clutched in his hands, which is a nice little touch.
As the legend goes, the monk found himself under siege from a group of sharks during one of his voyages back to Siem Reap. Luckily, he managed to survive and what was left of his boat eventually made it back to the city.
Mr. Monk felt so delighted at his good fortune he decided to build a reclining Buddha to celebrate! What’s more, he made sure to use several pieces of his wrecked boat. According to Cambodian historians… and bear with me here… this very same Buddha lies hidden away at the back of the main shrine.
What To See & Do, Siem Reap.
However, we’ve also read several articles stating that the Buddha is not the original piece. Rather, they claim King Ang Chan built it specifically to honour the legend. Sounds a bit more plausible.
Whatever the truth, it’s a fun tale and one that brings a visit here to life as you saunter around drinking in the atmosphere. Back out in the garden, there are a whole host of sculptures, statues and animal topiaries to enjoy. One grisly installation shows a man murdered by The Khmer Rouge, a pair of vultures pecking away at his insides.
For many overseas visitors it’s a sobering even shocking sight. But actually such statues are common in the temples of Cambodia. A regular reminder that the genocide years and the people they claimed should never be forgotten. Elsewhere, we stumbled across a tribute to Prince Siddhartha Gautama, The Lord Buddha and the story detailing his path to enlightenment.
Wat Preah Rath Temple is free to enter and well worth at least half an hour of your time. Furthermore, it’s centrally located, just a short walk from The Central Market. So be sure to include it in any walking tour of downtown Siem Reap.
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