28 DAYS: ADVENTURES FOR THE SOUL.
I can hardly believe I’m eleven days into my 28 day journey!
Day 11 was spent discovering Phnom Penh’s iconic landmarks. I must admit that it was my favorite day I’ve spent on my travels in South East Asia so far! My small heart is bouncing with big love and gratitude and a knowing that life is magic!
Although there are a million things I can share with you about each of the amazing places I visited, what I’m going to share with you today are the places that got my soul beating fast! To find more information about each magical iconic landmark, click on each one’s link below. I highly recommend it! Furthermore, I’m going to branch off into the spiritual adventures I went on today. Okay?
We visited (read, read, read!) –
Spirituality in Cambodia
Whenever I travel, my first question to the tour guide is usually: “What is the spiritual significance and history of this country?”
From the two days I’ve spent here I’ve recognized that meaning is a very important aspect of this culture. It’s up a notch from any other place I’ve traveled to. Meaning is everywhere. In people’s names, road names, restaurant names, history, in gestures, actions, warfare and in dates.
Today I learned that Cambodians mainly follow two religions: Buddhism and Hinduism.
Before Cambodia embraced Buddhism, there was Hinduism. For the first thousand years of Khmer (Cambodian) history, Cambodia was ruled by a series of Hindu kings with an occasional Buddhist king, such as Jayavarman I of Kingdom of Funan|Funan, and Suryvarman I (hope I got that right!).
Hinduism was one of the Khmer Empire’s official religions. In fact, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, is the largest Hindu temple in the world, and one of the only dedicated to Brahma, the god of creation, in Hinduism.
While Hinduism is no longer directly practiced in Cambodia, it influences Khmer Buddhist practices, such as weddings, funerals, and the use of astrology to find auspicious dates for important events. Once again…meaning!
Today’s Soulful Adventures
The Royal Palace, also known as “Preah Barum Reachea Veang Chaktomuk Serei Mongkol”(ព្រះបរមរាជវាំងចតុមុខសិរីមង្គល in their native language of Khmer), is a complex of buildings which serves as the royal residence of the king of Cambodia. YES, KING! The Kings of Cambodia have occupied it since it was built in the 1860s. (The royal roles remain in the family and the peoples of Cambodia get to vote which of the previous King’s son’s will be chosen next.)
Though there is royalty in Cambodia, the royal family has no direct involvement in Cambodian politics. The Prime Minister, as in the UK, is the ‘face’ of the Cambodian government and the voice for the people.
The Silver Pagoda is located on the Royal Palace grounds. It houses many (out-of-this-world) national treasures such as gold and jeweled Buddha statues! Most notably, it holds a small crystal Buddha known widely as the “Emerald Buddha” of Cambodia made of Baccarat Crystal in the 19th century. There’s also the Maitreya Buddha which is finely encrusted with 9,584 diamonds dressed in royal regalia. Then, there’s the inspiration behind the name: the 6,000 silver tiles laid elegantly in the pagoda (a sacred building).
The last stop was Wat Phnom, a Buddhist temple in the heart of Phnom Penh. It is the tallest religious structure in the city. There’s a myth about a rich widow called Penh who found a large tree in the Mekong River. In this tree she found four bronze Buddhist statues. She constructed a small shrine on an artificial hill made by the people living in the village to protect the sacred statues. Eventually this became a sacred site and sanctuary where people could to pray and deepen their beliefs. Nowadays it is known as Wat Phnom!
At this temple you can have a fortune teller tell you your fate or get good luck given to you by a special messenger in Sanskrit! Although I tried both, I’m not so sure of what the results were! In any case, I took it with a pinch of salt and always love trying new things!
As the tour guide said today, “Cambodia is heaven on earth”, and I could not agree more! For anyone of you reading this, I highly recommend visiting Phnom Penh and Cambodia. Tomorrow we’re off to Sihanoukville, another little corner of heaven on earth! Stay tuned for my next post. Same time, same place.
PS: The weird and wonderful flower in the featured image is from the Royal Palace. It is called “Pentacme Siamensis” more popularly known as Buddha’s Flower. Today is the first time I’ve ever seen it and count myself lucky.