Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Phnom Penh Part 8 – The Royal Palace


I wasn’t looking forward to visiting the Royal Palace, but I knew I just had to get it over and done with. I waited at the sidewalk outside for the after-lunch opening, while several monks passed us by. Several beggars were pulling our shirt, but I just had to say no. By the time we were allowed in at the gate, a moderately sizable crowd had gathered with us. Once we were in the compound, we had to turn right and queue at the ticket counter to buy our entrance ticket - $6 ( 25,000 kip or PhP287.50 ) – which I thought was expensive compared to any of the other tourist sights I have seen during this whole trip, from Vietnam to Laos to Thailand. We were given a glossy 48-page colour brochure which turned out to be a valuable tool in navigating inside these palatial grounds. And oh boy! This is the epitome of pomp and royal pageantry! 

However, comparatively speaking, a $6 entrance fee is really nothing compared to the fees charged upon our visits into some of Britain’s royal abodes -Buckingham Palace – 15.50 pounds or $26.80; the Windsor Castle – 12.50 pounds or $21.60; and to a lesser extent, Diana’s Kensington Palace – 10.50 pounds or $18.15. I cannot deny the spectacular beauty of these palaces, but such visits were almost too-limiting, too constricting, unlike the Khmer’s where you probably can stay for hours and hours in wide open spaces! I will be posting photos from these visits in the future – just to have a fitting companion piece to this post.


The Royal Palace of Phnom Penh is a complex of buildings which are the royal abode of the Kingdom ofCambodia. Its full name in the Khmer language is Preah Barom Reachea Vaeng Chaktomuk. The Kings of Cambodia have occupied it since it was built in 1866, with a period of absence when the country came into turmoil during and after the reign of the Khmer Rouge. The Khemarin Palace compound is where Norodom Sihamoni, the present King of Cambodia currently resides.


It is interesting to note the Buddha’s 8 precepts, which are:

1. not to kill, 2. not to steal, 3. not to commit adultery, 4. not to falsify, 5. not to slander, 6. not to eat at the wrong time, 7. to avoid worldly gifts, 8. NOT TO USE OINTMENTS! Although these precepts reflect some of the Christians’ 10 Commandments, I still have not succeeded deciphering the last precept. Otherwise, physicians would already be accessories for the crime of prescribing these medical ancillaries. And come to think of it, what would become of corneal abrasions without gels and ointments? LOL. Kidding aside, the aforementioned precepts underline the universal tenets of doing the right thing, regardless of religion, cultural proclivities or racial predispositions.
The very minute I stood at the ground facing the Throne Hall and all the other temples, I was overwhelmed with its eye-popping beauty, I kept clicking my cam like a gun-crazy lunatic. Every part of these halls are spectacular, elegant and, well, very royal. I found myself moving from one hall to the next with a sense of disbelief and utter self-fulfillment. To think I wasn’t crazy with this visit! Unfortunately for me, I ran out of camera space (SD memory card), thus I had to rely on my other low-tech, Canon instamatic camera which I haven’t been able to get developed yet! So I’ll just keep that for a Part 2 in the distant future. Needless to say, my instamatic has once again “saved” the day.
A building structure that stands apart from the structures in the compound is a white European edifice – the Pavilion of Napoleon III, which is a personal favorite. It was originally erected in Ismailia, Egypt for French Empress Eugenie during the inauguration of the Suez Canal in 1869. Then, the Emperor Napoleon III presented it to King Norodom, and it was reassembled in the Royal Palace in 1876. Today, it stands as an art gallery of oil paintings – mostly, of the formers Khmer Kings.
This post is obviously incomplete. The palace grounds is an enormous magnificent display of Cambodia’s rich monarchial, historical past and roaming the grounds and all the temples could take a day! Unfortunately, I felt I had to go after a couple of hours. I had to buy a pair of shoes.

The Throne Hall (Preah Tineang Tevea Vinichhay) was built in 1917 – and I am just amazed how it has stood time! It is used for the royal coronation ceremony; the local festivities called 12-Month Ceremonies (Tveatuosmeas), and the presentation of credentials by foreign envoys and diplomats as well as distinguished guests.

The Pavilion of Napoleon III - This was originally erected in Ismailia Egypt for French Empress Eugenie during the inauguration of the Suez Canal in 1869. Then Emperor Napoleon III presented it to King Norodom, and it was eventually reassembled in the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh in 1876. With its immaculate white exteriors, I find the building a very pretty sight.

The Silver Pagoda is the country’s most notable wat - a compound located on the north side of the Royal Palace. It features a royal temple commonly called Wat Preah Keo. Its main building houses many national treasures, most notably a small 17th century baccarat crystal Buddha (the "Emerald Buddha" of Cambodia) and a near-life-size, Maitreya Buddha encrusted with 9,584 diamonds dressed in royal regalia commissioned by King Sisowath. During King Norodom Sihanouk’s pre-Khmer Rouge reign, the Silver Pagoda was inlaid with more than 5,000 silver tiles and some of its outer facade was remodeled with Italian marble. However, these jewels are on limited public viewership – for security reasons. The Silver Pagoda is the official temple of the King of Cambodia.

King Norodom Sihamoni - Cambodia's current king. Photos above courtesy of the King's official website.

Monks walking in front of the Royal Palace.

This is the Eye in the Sky!


Sidney said...

Informative post as usual... amazing building and architecture...it must have cost a fortune to build them.

Twin said...

Great post! Ointment? I use them all the time when I have a headache :) Looking forward to your UK palaces stories...

Cathy Pena said...

wow. what a visual feast!

GMG said...

Hi Eye! Beautiful pictures of a wonderful palace. Sometimes it looks like the Roayal Palace in Bangkok...
Meanwhile, Blogtrotter has a Rhapsody in Blue post!! Not many words, just the rhapsody! Enjoy!

eye in the sky said...

@ sidney: it is lavishly beautiful. :->

eye in the sky said...

@ twin: ointment for headache? thats unusual. baka liniment.

eye in the sky said...

@ cathy: agree, cathy girl.

eye in the sky said...

@ blogtrotter: in many ways, its grandiose designs remind one of the royal palace of bangkok although this seems to have wider open spaces.

jepayuki said...

hello eye, i want to meet king norodom, he's one good looking king hahaha! =) i hope someday to visit this place.

UK palaces as your next post? =)

eye in the sky said...

@ jepay: yeah you're right. the king isn't a bad looking royalty. his being closely shaved seems unusual, hip! lol :->

eye in the sky said...

@jepay, forgot a reply to your last question.

yes, i'll post apiece on the english palaces but not in the next week or so. am almost desperately "trying" to finish something. lol

jepayuki said...

hi eye, no worries, we'll wait for your British invasion post! =)