Ok – time to continue the story about my family’s first full day in Cambodia (Friday, November 18th). We had spent the morning relaxing and hanging around the home of the Guests Complacent, and now we were rapidly approaching the time when jet lag would kick in and we’d be ready to crash. And so, our wise hosts knew that we needed to get out and do something. So we all piled into two tuk-tuks* and set out for the Royal Palace.
* Are two tuk-tuks equal to four tuks?
The Royal Palace is actually a whole complex of buildings set on a parcel of land that is approximately 0.5 km square. Half of the grounds are open to the public. The other half, which includes the king’s personal residence in Phnom Penh, is closed. Development of the complex began in 1866. Ten years ago when Ordinary Spouse and I visited, Norodom Sihanouk was king of Cambodia. Today, his son, Norodom Sihamoni, is the monarch.
Here are some of the highlights of our visit, with brief descriptions of the buildings from Wikipedia. Photography isn’t permitted inside the buildings, so you won’t be seeing pictures of the Emerald Buddha.
The Throne Hall
(I didn’t get a good picture of the Throne Hall this trip, so here’s a picture from 10 years ago. It happened to be a rainy day.)
The Throne Hall is where the king’s confidants, generals and royal officials once carried out their duties. It is still in use today as a place for religious and royal ceremonies (such as coronations and royal weddings) as well as a meeting place for guests of the King.
The Moonlight Pavilion
(Pretty nice picture, if I do say so myself.)
The Moonlight Pavilion is an open-air pavilion that serves as stage for Khmer classical dance in the past and present. It is one of the most notable buildings of the palace as it easily seen from the outside as it was built alongside a section of the palace walls. [It] has a balcony that was used as a platform for viewing parades marching along Sothearos Boulevard of Phnom Penh.
The Silver Pagoda
The Silver Pagoda is a compound located on the South side of the palace complex. Its main building houses many national treasures such as gold and jeweled Buddha statues. Most notable is 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 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.
Hor Samran Phirun
“The pavilion where one sleeps peacefully.” Royal rest house and waiting area where the King waits to mount an elephant for Royal processions. Also built to house musical instruments and procession implements. Constructed in 1917. Currently housing a display of gifts from foreign heads of state. (photo by Ordinary Spouse; text from Canby Publications)
Here are some other photos from our visit:
Cooling off in the royal sprinkler system. (Photo by Ordinary Spouse.)
Oldest Daughter with ceremonial dresses – a different color for each day of the week (Photo by Ordinary Spouse.)
A model of Angkor Wat. The Silver Pagoda is in the background.
Middle Daughter and Youngest Daughter examine the model and its moat (which was full of fish and turtles!).
This is the stupa (reliquary/memorial) for King Norodom Suramarit and Queen Sisowath Kossamak. They are the grandparents of the current king.
We were watched by monkeys as we rested at the end of the afternoon.
Here are MD and YD hanging out with a monkey warrior. Maybe Hanuman?
And compare that to this picture from 10 years ago when we were at Angkor…
After we finished our tour of the palace, our tuk-tuk drivers took us sightseeing around the downtown area. We drove along the riverfront (a busy tourist destination that we mostly avoided after that), saw Wat Phnom, and passed by the US embassy and the residence of Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Predictably, the younger jet-lagged members of our group had a hard time staying awake on the trip home. But by then, we could declare the day a success.