In Khmer, “wat” means temple, and there are a number of wats in the exotic country of Cambodia. While clearly the most magnificent, mystical and mysterious temple is Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, one of the original temples is Wat Botum in the capital city of Phnom Penh.
About Phnom Penh
The capital city is located in south-central Cambodia along the banks of three rivers – Mekong, Tonle Sap and Bassac rivers. Most of the city’s income and resources come from these rivers as well as its tourism industry. Like most Southeast Asian megacities, Phnom Penh is crowded and chaotic. Ninety percent of the country’s total population of 2 million people lives in the capital city. There is much poverty in Phnom Penh, although the city has been making significant strides toward economic, societal and political developments. Cambodia has had a fair share of civil wars, political strife and severe cases of human rights violations in the recent past, most specifically the blood rule of the Khmer Rouge army. Despite the extreme hardships, Cambodians or Khmers are very friendly, kind and hospitable. The official language is Khmer.
Recently, Phnom Penh has really been pushing its tourism to make leaps and bounds. Visa into the country is easy to get as tourists fly into either the Phnom Penh International Airport or Siem Reap International Airport. The leading tourist attractions are the National Museum, Central Market, Liberty Memorial, Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda, Sisowath Quay, Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Choeung Ek Killing Fields Museum about 17 kilometers away.
About Buddhism in Cambodia
More than 90% of all Khmers are Buddhists, which is why the Buddhist wats are important landmarks in Cambodia. The national religion is Theravada Buddhism, although there are also a handful of Christians, Hindus and Moslems. Tribal people living in jungles and mountains still follow animism and adhere to different brands of tribal religions.
About Wat Botum
Wat Botum, or “Temple of the Lotus Blossoms” in English, was founded by King Ponyea Yat in 1442. The temple’s original 15th-century name was Wat Khpop Ta Yang or Wat Tayawng. In 1860 when the nearby Royal Palace was completed, monk Kantie Topodae changed the temple’s sect into Thammayut Buddhism and name to Botum Wathel, based on a peaceful lotus pond nearby. Located south of the Royal Palace and west of Wat Botum Park, Wat Botum is considered an important temple because (1) several local politicians and dignitaries are buried here, (2) well-loved monks have been ordained within the temple, (3) it is the center of Thammayut Buddhism, (4) was highly favored by the Royal Family, and, today, (5) it is the headquarters of the Khmer Writers Association and its president, You Bo.
Wat Botum is open to devotees, tourists, art enthusiasts, and to the simply curious. The leading attractions inside the temple are the magnificent paintings on the temple walls and ceilings, decorated stupas around the temple compound and where the remains of royal family members are contained, and the large green and yellow statues that represent the legendary Buddhist snake called Naga.