On my last day in Phnom Penh I decided it was time for frivolity and fun and went to the Palace. (I was surprised to learn that Cambodia actually still has a royal family; Russia, China, Vietnam… I’ve got used to royalty being deposed! The King since 2004 occupies a largely ceremonial position. His Father, however, was very politically active throughout his reign… which included two terms as King, two as Sovreign Prince, one as President, Two as Prime Minister, and various titles as head as Cambodia’s Government-in-exile. He supported the Khmer Rouge in their struggle.)
The Palace was very pointy. And yellow, the royal colour. Apparently it and the palace in Bangkok are very similar – which is the original and which is the copy depends on who you ask.
There were also lots of cool animal-mash-up guardian spirit thingies everywhere. No boring dragons for the Cambodian kings, oh no! My favourite was the multi-headed snake (I suspect Naga) chilling out on all the banisters.
Because the King is still in residence at the Palace we were limited as to how much we could see of the Palace itself. At the back though is a small complex of pagodas and stupas and other religious monuments. (We actually saw this bit first. I discovered just as we got there that my batteries had run out. The very kind guards let us jump ahead to the exit where I could buy replacements.)
There was the silver pagoda – so called because its floor is made of metal tiles. Most of the silver was covered with carpets but there was a bit you could see. It just looked like dirty metal tiles. Someone needs to go at it with the silvo… The pagoda holds loads of Buddhist objects and statues including the Emerald Buddha and a gold and diamond Buddha made out of the melted down funerary urn of a cremated king. (he asked for it to be made into a Buddha while he was still alive.)
There was also a tiny model of Angkor Wat.
And lots of lots of plants in pots, including minature lotuses. The gardens in the Palace itself looked lovely, huge and green – what you could see of them past the keep out signs.
And monks! A pack of monks suddenly appeared and started wandering around, camera phones out, taking pictures of the scenery and each other.
At one point they all lined up for a photo op.
I think they might’ve been student monks. I heard somewhere that the newest monks have the brightest robes, which gradually get darker and darker as they progress. And these monks were very bright!
After the Palace David (I went to the Palace with David and Gemma, two people I met in Phnom Penh) wanted to go to a chocolate shop he’d heard about near the Palace. So of course I went with him. And they were so, so gorgeous – rows of piles of glistening intricate mouthfuls of chocolately goodness. All insanely expensive of course. And especially tormenting because Some People had eaten Father’s Day Thorntons’ chocolates in front of my Skype screen a couple of days before.
So I was good and I only bought a $2.50 milk chocolate praline bar. And it was so, so worth it.