Oudong, the Old Capital of Cambodia: Is It Worth the Day Trip from Phnom Penh?

In case you don’t know yet, my way of travel will probably be classified as ‘scattered’ for some people. Unlike most travelers who would outline their itinerary when they visited a place, I wasn’t like that. That’s also what happened when I was in Cambodia.

After I decided to turn down Sihanoukville from the list of cities to visit as a part of my Indochina tour, I eventually stayed at The Mou Hotel in Phnom Penh for 4 days. You may think I had visited a lot of places in Cambodia’s capital, but truth be told, I had not.

After visiting the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum on the first day, I ended up having some Khmer massage at Anna’s Spa. On the second day, I was swarmed up with the virtual meeting, so I only went to the riverside later at night for a date with my Indochina fling. LOL.

On my last full day, since I realized that I didn’t know when I got a chance to come back to Phnom Penh again, I decided to force myself to go out. And this time, I went to Oudong, the old capital of Cambodia.

About Oudong: Cambodia’s Old Capital

If I gotta be honest with you, I wasn’t aware of Oudong until I arrived in Phnom Penh. On the day I reached Giant Ibis office in the capital city, the tuk-tuk driver who eventually accompanied me for the Cambodian genocide tour mentioned the old capital.

It was literally my first time to hear about Oudong, but then the idea of old capital really intrigued me that I decided to spend my last full day to get there.

Located at the foothill of the mountain Phnom Oudong, it took me almost 2 hours to get there from my hotel in Phnom Penh. The distance is around 40 km from the current capital city, it was where the royal resided for more than 250 years.

It used to be the capital in the post-Angkor era until 1866 when King Norodom was convinced to move the royal court to Phnom Penh.

How to Go to Oudong from Phnom Penh

Chances are there will be a tour available to Oudong from your hotel in Phnom Penh. I think the cost varies starting from around $30 USD. However, if joining a tour isn’t your thing, you can also arrange your travel to the old capital on your own by renting a tuk-tuk.

I rented a tuk-tuk from Phnom Penh through Grab for $17.5 USD. It’s the charging fee for a 6-hour tuk-tuk rent, and I thought it was all-in since I figured going to Oudong from Phnom Penh wouldn’t take more than 5 hours in total.

I was really just being so cheap that renting a tuk-tuk was supposed to be less expensive than joining a tour. Not to mention that the tour would start early, when I really wanted to start my day after 10 AM.

On my way back to Phnom Penh, I had a call from Grab in Cambodia telling me that the driver informed them about his service to take me to Oudong. They classified Oudong as an ‘out-of-town’ journey, so there was an additional fee for $12.5 USD for that.

In total, I paid $30 USD to get to Oudong from Phnom Penh. I wouldn’t mind paying extra, especially as I experienced the Old Capital journey that is quite distanced from the current one.

The road was quite dusty, and it was surprisingly farther than I thought it would be. But then again, the next question is: is it worth the day trip?

Day Trip from Phnom Penh to Oudong the Old Capital

When the driver told me that we arrived at the entry gate, I was actually quite surprised. Since I traveled alone, I only had the tuk-tuk driver to direct me where to go.

He told me that there is a tourist center not so far from the entry gate, and I could go there to find out where to go next. I went to the office, and someone approached me and told me that it’s free entry. I could even get a free map with a glimpse of information about Oudong in general.

The stupas and pagodas are the house to place the remains of deceased Khmer kings.

Honestly, if I didn’t know any better, the place looks pretty dodgy due to poor preservation.

My First Impression on Oudong the Old Capital

I kinda regret the idea of not joining a tour or hiring a private guide for my trip to Oudong. But then having to go up with around 500 stairs, I think it was the best decision, so no one had to hear me losing my breath, fighting for my dear life. LOL

There were, of course, some kids trying to scam you on your way to the top. But the kids weren’t so persistent, so it’s still fairly safe to wander around on your own.

When I got to the top, the view was breathtaking for sure. Oudong is really a picturesque spot. It’s also a less-touristy spot as I barely met any other travelers there.

However, I crossed paths with the locals who just finished their prayer rituals. There are a few stupas and pagodas at the top of Mount Oudong.

They’re also quite impressive, although that’s also when I wish I joined the tour to find out better about the stupa and why it’s special around the Old Capital region.

Things I Wish I Knew Before Visiting Oudong

Since I didn’t know anything much about the ancient history of Cambodia, I couldn’t really tell which one is which and why the particular pagoda is distinctive around Oudong. I only got some time to read about Oudong after I visited the place.

Now I know that the stupa and pagoda are the houses where they keep the remains of deceased Khmer kings. In addition to that, I found out that Oudong is also a part of UNESCO World Heritage in Cambodia.

When it comes to information needed when I visit a place, I don’t have anything to worry about with Google on my hand actually. However, there are things I wish I knew about Oudong before visiting so that it’d make a better experience for me. 

And those are:

  • Wearing socks. When we reached the top, we have to take off our sandals and shoes. All the stupa and pagodas are surrounded by marbles on the floor, and it was freaking hot to step on it in the afternoon!
  • Eat before you hike. Seriously though, I really thought I’d find some cafe or eateries around the old capital. Unlike some famous tourist spots, there is none except for some stalls where at the top where they sell pricey cup noodles. 

The other reason I think joining a tour would have made a better experience was that your tour guide will know where to go. 

I was traveling to Oudong on my own, and I got too scared that I’d take the wrong step to the forbidden spot around the mountain. 

Is It Worth the Day Trip from Phnom Penh?

If you join the tour, it’s probably worth it. But honestly, it’s not really worth the effort if you arrange the trip on your own as I did. After Oudong, I ended up going back to Phnom Penh and spent the rest of the day around the Russian Market.

However, if you’re the kind of traveler who’s up to an off-the-beaten-path destination, you’d probably find Oudong fascinating. Especially if you can find the right guide to show you around, and tell you the historical spots around the Old Capital.

Have you had a day trip to Oudong from Phnom Penh? Tell me your experience below, and cheerio! 😀


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