The small ridge of hills called Phnom Oudong (also commonly spelled Udong) rises out of the vast plain bordering the Tonle River about 40 kilometers north of Phnom Penh. The high ground is a natural place for settlement, and by around the seventh century there was a well-established city here. A stone temple was built here around the thirteenth century.
In 1618 the capital was moved here from nearby Lovek (of which almost nothing remains). The capital remained at Oudong until 1866, when the French - who agreed to 'protect' Cambodia from the Siamese - convinced King Norodom to move the capital back to Phnom Penh.
You can see the ridge, with its crown of stupas, from some distance away. The slender stupas are mostly funerary reliquaries housing the ashes of former kings, and many were built after Oudong ceased to be the capital. The newest, and largest, of them was built by the current king to house a Buddhist relic from Phnom Penh.
Most visits start near the eastern end of the ridge, where a path allows cars to drive up to a small parking area. The flattened area is also the base for three stupas. From here, a stairway leads up along the ridge, past another chedi, before reaching the large, intricate, new chedi. Two more spires crown the highest peak of the ridge. Down towards the western end of the ridge are the remains of the thirteenth century temple, Preah Atharas. Not much of it is left after years of war.
At the base of the ridge is a new, large temple that also serves as a Buddhist study center. Some of the structures are quite impressive, although the main "attraction" is a mummified monk in a small chapel near the back of the temple.
Oudong Admission Fees
Admission to the Oudong area is US$1 for foreigners.
Getting to Oudong
Although public transportation is an option, you really need your own transportation to get to Oudong from Phnom Penh and back. A car and driver for a half day will run you about US$40. You can also rent a motorcycle to make the trip on your own, but be warned that there are several police checkpoints along the way, so make sure you have a helmet on and all paperwork is in order.