Sunday, April 27, 2014

Phnom Penh: Royal Palace

After taking in the myriad temples and fascinating floating villages of Siem Reap, we bopped down to Phnom Penh for a few days.  Our first stop, right around the corner from our hotel, was the Royal Palace grounds.

We hired a guide to give us a little history on the palace and royal family.  The guide provided us with some pretty salacious factoids and even added his own color commentary about the current king, Norodom Sihamoni: he started out the tour by saying, and I quote, "You know what they say about men who are bachelors and love ballet." Ummmm... ok.  He also said something about the king having little power and being a ceremonial rubber stamp. These types of comments are in pretty sharp contrast to attitudes about royalty we see in Thailand: complete devotion/adoration.  Pretty interesting!

Anyway, the royal palace serves as the residence of the king and has been occupied since the 1860s. The building above and below is the throne hall, which is used for ceremonies and receiving guests:

The palace walls and victory gate were quite pretty:

This building below, visible from outside the palace walls, is the moonlight pavilion, an open-air stage for classical Khmer dance performances. 

This structure below is the Hor Samran Phirun, which is the building where the king's elephants were historically kept... kinda like an elephant garage or stable.  The balcony on the right is the platform from which the king would climb on the back of the elephant for processions:

The building below is the actual working offices of the royal council:

Cool gate:

There was a troupe of monkeys on the royal palace grounds:

Not pictured because it was undergoing conservation, but pretty interesting nonetheless, is the out-of-place Napoleon III Pavilion, which was gifted by Napoleon to the Cambodian king in 1876.  Our tour guide suggested that the pavilion was basically a thank you gift for the king handing over the keys to the kingdom to the French in the form of a protectorate.

This is the Silver Pagoda, which is the royal temple.  Currently it houses an insane amount of gold and jewels, mainly in the form of thousands of Buddha statues.  It's a bit overwhelming.

One of the many shrines to honor/house the ashes of deceased members of the royal family:

After our tour of the palace grounds, we headed out for a walk around the area, towards the river.  These beautiful lotus flowers were for sale for offerings at a riverside shrine:

Phnom Penh traffic, with the palace grounds in the background:

A cold drink to fend off the heat:

The pretty square in front of the palace.  Lots of people hanging out, including many monks in bright orange robes:

The moonlight pavilion from outside the palace walls:

Coconut water seller:

A pretty sunset from the roof of the nearby Foreign Correspondents Club:

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