I visited the Royal Palace of Cambodia twice. The first time was with my family, a day before my sister went back to the Philippines. The second time was with Alan, a week after we visited Toul Sleng and the Killing Fields, which we both considered as our first date.
The Royal Palace of Cambodia was built by King Norodom in 1866 when he moved the royal capital from Oudong to Phnom Penh. The Palace is a complex of buildings which is divided into four main compounds such as the Silver Pagoda on the south, Khemarin Palace on the north, the Throne Hall at the central compound and the Inner Court on the west side. It is a must see sight in Phnom Penh. It is not just a historic sight, it is also a living palace as it serves as the royal residence of the Kings of Cambodia since it was built. At present, it is the home of the Cambodia’s monarch King Sihamoni. The palace is huge; however, some areas are prohibited to the public. We visited the temples, but obviously not the places where the King lives.
While exploring the palace compound we noticed some French influences as it was constructed while Cambodia was under French rule.The Throne Hall boasts many French touches such as painting and decoration on the walls and the chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. Another French symbol inside the palace is the small house called Pavilion of Napoleon III, which is entirely made of iron. I have learned that it was originally built in Egypt in 1869 by Emperor Napoleon III for Empress Eugenie of France. In 1876, Empress Eugenie of France gifted it to King Norodom so it was dismantled, shipped to Cambodia and reassembled inside the Royal Palace complex. At present, it houses valuable memorabilia of the former Kings. However, when we visited the palace, the Pavilion of Napoleon III was closed because it was under renovation.
The palace is also filled with symbols which display both the Buddhist and Hindu religious heritage of Cambodia. The colors of the buildings are yellow, which represents Buddhism and white, which represents Hinduism. Also, the walls of the pagoda grounds are coated with frescos from early twentieth century which demonstrate the Khmer understanding of the Hindu Ramayana epic.
Among the places we visited inside the palace complex, we admired the Silver Pagoda the most as it was the home to many overwhelming Buddhist treasures made from silver, gold and diamonds. The Silver Pagoda is also known as the Temple of Emerald Buddha as it houses the “Emerald Buddha” of Cambodia. Another notable piece is the golden statue of the Future Buddha called Maitreya Buddha. I have learned that this statue represents the fifth Buddha who is believed to appear on Earth and achieve complete enlightenment. The statue was illuminated with 9,584 diamonds including a 25-karat diamond on the crown and dressed in royal regalia. The entire floor of the Silver Pagoda was embellished with more than 5,000 solid silver tiles and some of the outer facade was reconstructed with Italian marble.
Near the Silver Pagoda, we saw an Equestrian Statue of King Norodom who dressed in Napoleon attire which was a compliment to Napoleon III of France, since they were good friends.
There is also an Elephant Pavilion inside the palace which tells about the importance of elephants in Khmer culture. We saw silver and gold elephants which have been given to the Royal Family as gifts. We also saw life-size replica of elephants. I have learned that the Royal Family used to travel primarily on elephants and, in order to accommodate the traffic into and out of the compound, King Norodom constructed a massive Victory Gate. At present, this gate is still used to receive important visitors and foreign envoys to the King.
We enjoyed looking around this lovely place. The Khmer wall paintings were beautiful. The buildings were stunning and the gardens were well-tended and well-manicured. All these captured our senses. It was indeed a serene place to walk around and a good opportunity to explore and learn the Cambodian history and culture.
Little Lilly Travel Tip:
- Take a guide as it imparts a little more explanation that can help you understand Cambodia’s history.
- Wear proper and descent clothes as in no shorts, sleeveless, short skirts, etc. The Palace will not allow anybody to get in with bare shoulders.
- In some areas, photography is not allowed so, be mindful.