Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda Phnom Penh - review by Rusty Compass
Phnom Penh | see and do guide

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Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda Phnom Penh

| 18 Feb 2015
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Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda Phnom Penh
Between sts. 240 and 184 on Sothearos. Entrance faces the river.
7.30 - 11AM / 2 - 5PM - Every day.
US$6.50. Extra for still and video cameras.

Map
Our rating
18 Feb 2015

The main symbol of Phnom Penh, the Royal Palace, provides a glimpse of the country's regal history. It's a side of Cambodia's story frequently overwhelmed either by the Angkorian splendour at Siem Reap or the barbaric Khmer Rouge era. The palace, strongly influenced by its counterpart in Bangkok, dates from 1866 and the relocation of the Cambodian capital from nearby Oudong.

Note: The information provided in this review was correct at time of publishing but may change. For final clarification please check with the relevant service

The towering spires of the Royal Palace dominate the Phnom Penh riverfront and stand as a monument to a royal family that has endured extraordinary times. In 2004, King Norodom Sihanouk, one of the great political survivors of the twentieth century abdicated in favour of his son Prince Sihomani whose coronation took place here.

Cambodia,Phnom Penh
Photo: Mark BowyerRoyal Palace, Phnom Penh

Completed in 1866 the Royal Palace is a must see Phnom Penh sight. It was constructed in stages after the French inspired move of the capital from nearby Oudong to Phnom Penh. It draws heavily on the design of the more substantial Royal Palace in Bangkok.

Its presentation to visitors is largely free of substantial information or context, making it a difficult sight to connect with beyond the superficial. Visitors deserve more information for their $6.50 outlay.

The thousands of stories from the past century lingering behind the palace walls could make it one of the most compelling sights in Cambodia and Asia - but for now, those stories remain trapped behind the walls. 

Travellers have to satisfy themselves admiring the structures, their contents and what they reveal of a rich cultural tradition.

Presumably those in charge take the view that if you don't hire a guide, you don't deserve to know anything.

Cambodia,Phnom Penh
Photo: Mark BowyerFrance's bizarre offering to King Norodom - straight from the Suez.

The palace includes a bizarre 1876 gift from Napoleon III. This cast iron pavilion was used at the opening of the Suez Canal in Egypt before being shipped and reassembled in Phnom Penh. It is said to have been a favourite building of King Norodom I.

The Silver Pagoda is the most admired structure in the palace complex. Named after the more than 5000 tiles that decorate its floor, it has served as a place of meditation, religious counsel and Buddhist ritual for Cambodia's kings. King Sihanouk spent a year living at the pagoda as part of his coronation ritual in 1947. The Silver Pagoda is home to many Buddhist treasures, the most important of which is the Emerald Buddha (the pagoda is also known as the Emerald Buddha Pagoda).

Cambodia,Phnom Penh
Photo: Mark BowyerSilver Pagoda's stunning frescos, Phnom Penh

The cloisters around the pagoda grounds are lined with beautiful frescos from the early twentieth century depicting the Khmer interpretation of the Hindu epic, the Ramayana. There have been attempts at preservation of the frescos but they continue to deteriorate.

Photography is permitted in the palace grounds only.

Travel tips:
Short walk from the riverfront and the National Museum

Mark Bowyer
Mark Bowyer is the founder and publisher of Rusty Compass.
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