2nd Stop- Royal Palace & Silver Pagoda, Phnom Penh
Trip Start Aug 12, 2010
24Trip End Aug 15, 2010
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Marking the approach to the Royal Palace along Sothearos Blvd the high yellow crenellated walls and spired Chanchhaya Pavilion stand distinctively against the riverfront skyline. Inside the Palace grounds street sounds are silenced by the high walls and the royal buildings sit like ornate islands rising from the manicured gardens.
The Royal Palace serves as the residence of the King, a venue for court ceremony and as a symbol of the Kingdom. It was first established at its present location when the capitol was moved from Oudong to Phnom Penh in 1866 under King Norodom and the French protectorate, though the Palace did not attain its current general form until about 1920.
Khmer and European elements as well as distinct architectural echoes of the Palace in Bangkok are present in the design of the various buildings. Attached to the Palace compound Wat Preah Keo Morokat a.k.a. Silver Pagoda is unique amongst pagodas. So named for its silver tiled floor, it is where the King meets with monks, Royal ceremonies are performed and it houses a collection of priceless Buddhist and historical objects including the Emerald Buddha. This Emerald Buddha is beautified with numerous diamonds and the biggest of which is 35 carats. There are also a collection of numerous gifts which were received by the King from other rulers of states. I was informed that most of these had been stolen during the insurgency and what is left is just around 15% of the original collection.
Unlike most pagodas, no monks live at this pagoda. The temple building, library and galleries were first constructed between 1892 and 1902.
Upon entering the palace grounds, the first building that would strike your attention is the Preah Tineang Tevea Vinichhay a.k.a. The Throne Hall. The primary audience hall of the King, used for diplomatic and other official meetings. This Throne Hall us the second to be built on this site. The first was constructed of wood in 1869 - 1870 under King Norodom and it was subsequently demolished in 1915. The present building was constructed in 1917 and inaugurated by King Sisowath in 1919. The building is 30 x 60 meters and topped by a 59 meter spire with the Bayon at the top.
The next building to the left of it is the Phochani Pavilion. This is an open hall originally constructed as a classical dance theater. The pavilion is currently used for Royal receptions and meetings. This was built in 1912.
This is the Napoleon III Pavilion and the Hor Samrith Vimean. The Napoleon III Pavilion was the first permanent structure on the site of the Royal Palace. Originally built for Empress Eugenie of France, wife of Napoleon III in 1869 for use in the inauguration of the Suez Canal. This building is constructed entirely on iron. The Hor Samrith Vimean is also known as the Bronze Palace. Repository for Royal Regalia and attributes. There is a display of Royal Regalia and costumes on the ground floor. This building was constructed in 1917.
Hor Samran Phirun us the Royal 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.
Chachhaya Pavilion is the current pavilion and this is the second incarnation of the Chanchhaya Pavilion, this one constructed in 1913 - 1914 under King Sisowath to replace the earlier wooden pavilion built under King Norodom. The current pavilion is of the same design as the earlier version. The Chanchhaya Pavilion, also known as the Moonlight Pavilion, dominates the facade of the Palace on Sothearos Blvd. The Pavilion serves as a venue for the Royal Dancers, as a tribune for the Kind to address the crowds and as a place to hold state and Royal banquets.
The interior of the pagoda compound walls is covered with colorful murals depicting stories from the Reamker (Ramayana), much of it now in deteriorating condition. The murals were painted in 1903 -04 under architect Oknha Tep Nimit Tlak.
Then you would come across the Stupha of HM King Norodom, where his ashes are kept. He reigned from 1834 - 1904. This stupha was constructed in 1908.
Just beside this you would see the Silver Pagoda. Wat Preah Keo Morokat a.k.a the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and the Silver Pagoda for the 5329 silver tiles that cover the floor, each hand crafted and weighing 1.125Kg. The vihear serves less as a functioning temple than a repository for cultural and religious treasures. The primary Buddha, sitting on a gilded dais above others is the Emerald Buddha. In front stands Buddha Maitreya, a 90 kg golden Buddha encrusted with 2086 diamonds.
As we come out of the Silver Pagoda, we would see a statue of King Norodom.
Walking across the gardens would lead us to the Stupha of HM King Suramarith and HM Queen Kossomak. Just beside them is the Stupha of HRH Princess Kantha Bopha, who was the beloved daughter of King Sihanouk. She died at age 7.
As we walk towards the exit gates, we would also see the statue of King Jayavarman VII and a few other small temples.
This a great place to visit and we left this place at 10.40 am.