After a very mentally tiring morning, it was time for a spot to eat before my last tour of the day around the Royal Palace. My tuk tuk driver that I had hired for the day, at the cost of a mere $8 took me to one of his families restaurant just down the road from the Palace. The restaurant was a small establishment with a varied menu of western and Cambodian food, I opted for Coconut Pork Skewers and rice and an ice coffee. Iced coffee since Koh Tao had becoe an essentail part of my diet and day routine. The meal was fantastic both spicy and sweet and the skewers were BBQ’d to perfection, the ice coffee was less so good as the waiter managed to pour all of it down my lap and on the floor. Funnily enough when it came to paying he tried to charge me for the iced coffee he’d split.
After a short rest and a quick read up on the royal palace it was off to the abode of the King of Cambodia. The palace was erected in 1866 by King Norodom after singing a treaty with France therefore in relative terms these are quite modern buildings. The palace comprises of a number of buildings from Throne halls to Wats to beautiful gardens and is a great example of Khmer architecture at its best. Major and the most significant of additions to the palace were made by King Sisowath between1913-1919. As per all palaces an entrance fee is demanded upon arrival and for a tour guide this costs extra. I stuck to the lonely planet for my guide and unfortunately you are not allowed to take any pictures inside the buildings.
The most memorable and beautiful of all the 30 or so buildings inside the complex – Throne Hall The Khmer = Preah Thineang Dheva Vinnichay meaning the “Sacred Seat of Judgement.” 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 cross-shaped building is crowned with three spires. The central, 59 meter spire is topped with the white, four-faced head of Brahma. Inside the Throne Hall contains a royal throne and busts of Cambodians kings of the past.This Throne Hall is the second to be built on this site. The first was constructed of wood in 1869-1870 under King Norodom. That Throne Hall was demolished in 1915. The present building was constructed in 1917 and inaugurated by King Sisowath in 1919. Silver Pagoda The Pagaoda features a royal temple officially called Preah Vihear Preah Keo Morakot but is commonly referred to as Wat Preah Keo. 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 beautiful silver tiles whish some are on show. The rest are covered over so the trials of tourists can walk over. Amongst other buildings around the complex are the Chan Chhaya Pavillion (you can see this one from the road too) which is used for open air pavillion to show traditioanl dance to the public as well as a platform for the king to reisde during public prosestions. Also in the grounds is a Fench style buiolding that was given as a gift by Napolean III which seems very much out of place amongst the grand buildings surrounding it. Also it seems that it had been put out of the way, much like a strange ornament from abroad that you are given from a friend but you have to show off in your living room so as not to offend them!!!
The palace is a beautiful display of buildings and fine architecture and a good place to get away from the hustle and bustle, noise and dust of the capital that is Phnom Phem. Unfortunatley you can’t stay in there forever so it was back to the hotel for a sleep and rest. I also needed to book my bus ticket to Sihanoukville, which departed the next day around 1pm. After an exhausting day I was out for the count that night and didn’t even go out for food. The next day I had a few hours to kill so in the morning I took a wonder out of the hotel and went to visit Wat Phnom where I encountered even more beggars, crazy sexed up ferel monkeys and a elephant! The Wat itself is up a small hill and in terms of grandeur, not really much to write home about but it wasted a few hours of my morning and I enjoyed chilling out with locals in the shade for an hour or so, sipping a cold coke and watching the monkeys terriorise the tourists. Soon enough it was time to get my stuff together and head to the bus station and begin a 9hour bus ride down to the coastal town of Sihanoukville where I was hoping to a little diving if weather permitted.