Photo: Wat Lanka, Phnom Penh.

Wat Kean Kleang

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Slightly outside Phnom Penh itself but within easy striking distance, spectacular Wat Kean Kleang is one of our favourite temples in this corner of the world. It’s also very conveniently placed on the road to Koh Dach, so any visit to the fascinating silk weaving island ought to include a stop here.

Wat Kean Kleang, the ’Gold Temple’

Aka the Gold Temple.

As with many Cambodian wats, it’s known by more than one name — Wat Preah Vihear Thmei was also quoted to us — but it is difficult to miss. After crossing the Japanese Bridge over the Tonle Sap, head up National 6 for a few kilometres before looking out for a large gold-coloured temple on the right. If you turn into the temple yard, a second, smaller road running parallel to the Mekong River will lead you to the various ferry crossings for Koh Dach — this road takes you along a more scenic road to the jetty than sticking to the main, busy highway. Allow around 15 to 20 minutes each way from the centre of town and you should be able to to negotiate a return by tuk tuk for $10 or less.

Some dried squid while you peruse the artwork

Some dried squid while you peruse the artwork.

The temple complex is small despite the huge, gold coloured viharn, while the riverbank setting is picturesque. Looking upriver you can make out Koh Dach, while downstream the buildings of Phnom Penh city already appear distant.

The modern murals are a lot less faded but far more gruesome!

Modern murals: less faded, more gruesome.

Everything about the main worshipping hall is in striking gold, except for the roofs of red tiles, and the interior houses several gold leaf-clad Buddha images. Note also the brightly coloured, though sometimes gruesome, interior mural paintings.

Fading fast!

Fading fast!

Not to be missed is an older brick, plaster and concrete hall on the right as you enter. The wooden doors are covered in some magnificent paintings. Painted directly onto the wood on the outside-facing side, and so exposed to the elements, these paintings are sadly fading fast and we couldn’t help feeling they ought to be preserved for posterity in a museum somewhere. As with the main viharn, the scenes are images from Buddhist mythology. We asked the resident monks if they had an idea of the age of these murals but the only response we could get was ‘very old’.

Locals are always friendly since they don’t receive many foreign visitors in this temple. There’s even usually snack and drinks vendors in the yard, due to the presence of a nearby school.

By .

Wat Kean Kleang
National Highway 6, Phnom Penh
Admission: Free

Location map for Wat Kean Kleang

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