Wat Phnom Gets Gussied Up For Next Month’s Ceremony

The cleaning, hammering, painting and pruning around Wat Phnom is coming to an end. In two weeks, the city plans to celebrate the finish of the temple’s five-month renovation project.

In an effort to make Wat Phnom more attractive to the public, Phnom Penh’s first deputy governor Chea Sophara said the city will bring about 2,000 pigeons and several monkeys to live permanently in the garden’s trees.

“Raising pigeons at Wat Ph­nom is a good idea because the bird represents peace and will also entertain tourists,” Chea Sophara said. The birds will be released during a three-day ceremony to begin April 8.

During the renovation, the temple and stupas have been colorfully repainted, gardens have been planted and an electric system has been installed to light the stupa and pathways at night. The rejuvenated temple, it is hoped, will help boost lagging tourism in the city. “The Wat Phnom temple and its surroundings will now attract a lot of attention from tourists and Cam­bodians,” Chea Sophara said.

The renovation of the temple and its surrounding gardens cost more than $300,000, the first deputy governor and CPP central committee member said. Most of the money came from the French government. King Norodom Sihanouk gave $10,000 and the rest came from city hall, Chea Sophara said.

Seng Tharath, a 25-year-old man visiting from Kompong Cham province, said Sunday he was surprised by the restored beauty of Wat Phnom. “It makes me very happy to see the development,” Seng Tharath said.

The area near the capital’s best-known temple had been neglected for years, Chea Sophara said, and had degenerated into a location known for crime.

Legend says a pagoda was built on the hill in 1373 for four statues washed up on the banks of the Tonle Sap, and found by a woman named Penh. The name of the hill and the city ar­ound it are said to come from this legend.

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