Monday, December 17, 2007

Phnom Penh, Cambodia: Day Events – Royal Palace & Silver Pagoda

The Royal Palace is a complex containing buildings which are the royal residence of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Its full name in the Khmer language is "Preah Barom Reachea Vaeng Chaktomuk." The Kings of Cambodia have occupied it since it was built in 1866, with a period of absence when the country came into turmoil during and after the reign of the Khmer Rouge.

The amazing Royal Palace

The Royal Palace is located at Sothearos between Streets 240 & 184. Cost for entrance is $3.00/person, $2.00/camera, $5.00/video camera. Be sure to wear a shirt that covers your shoulders, and no short skirts or shorts. If you do forget, they offer clothes you can either purchase or rent for the day. The Royal Palace is open everyday, 7:30 a.m. - 11:00 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Buddha statutes in the Royal Palace

The Royal Palace in Phnom Penh was constructed over a century ago to serve as the residence of the King of Cambodia, his family and foreign dignitaries, as a venue for the performance of court ceremony and ritual and as a symbol of the Kingdom. It serves to this day as the Cambodian home of King Norodom Sihamoni and former King Norodom Sihanouk.

Small scale model of Angkor Wat

The Royal Palace also holds the world-renowned Silver Pagoda. To enter the Silver Pagoda you must first remove your shoes. Additionally, there are no photos in the Pagoda. It is named for the 5,000 silver tiles which are used to pave the temple's floor. Most of the floor is covered in a large rug to preserve its life. However, when you walk over the tiles, you can feel the move and squeak a bit. This really made me realize the magnitude not only of the structure’s composition but of the age as well. It was an amazing experience. The Silver Pagoda holds a life-size Buddha image of solid gold is a popular tourist attraction.

Silver Pagoda

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Cambodia: Getting There and Getting Around

After our visit to Thailand, we decided to see the historical and cultural sights of Cambodia. From Bangkok, we flew to the Phnom Penh International Airport. The BKK airport offers a luggage storage room at a minimal charge. We opted to drop off most of our stuff and keep only the bare necessities.

The flight to Phnom Penh was short, and we arrived in the evening. Though I expected the temperature to be warm, I was not fully prepared for the heat wave that encompassed me when I stepped off the plane.

Just outside our hotel

Taxi drivers are everywhere, and I was definitely looking forward to the ride as it was my only chance for a breeze. It seems that everyone who owns any sort of transportation is a taxi driver. We agreed to use the taxi service of one man until we found out that he had only a small scooter, and hoped to fit us on the back, along with our luggage. That didn’t exactly work out. Though I have seen an entire family of 5 on a small scooter, I didn’t have the coordination required for such a feat.

Busy streets just outside of town

Next, we found a taxi driver who owned an automobile. However, he informed us that our hotel had burned down and that he would gladly take us to a great place he knew of. Since we had just booked the hotel the night before, we had a pretty good idea that the hotel had not burned down overnight.

Finally we found a man with a great little tuk-tuk. We jumped in and were off. We cruised through the streets that were busy with locals sitting and chatting near the ever-popular street vendor. Since most people living there don’t have air conditioning, they stay outdoors during the evening as it is much cooler. This adds to the interesting nightlife that Phnom Penh has to offer.

A view of downtown from the tuk-tuk

We made it to our hotel and checked in without any delay. We then ventured out for a SIM card for our phone. However, apparently in Cambodia you are not allowed to purchase a SIM card unless you can prove that you are a Cambodian citizen. But not to worry, for the right price, the locals will be glad to buy one for you!