Built in the 1860s, the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda are two highlights of a trip to the Cambodian capital. Rather like the Grand Palace and Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok, Phnom Penh’s royal complex contains two separate attractions that serve very different purposes, albeit two attractions that are visited together. The Royal Palace is the official home of the Cambodian royal family and the Silver Pagoda is one of the country’s most revered temples. You’ll know if the king is at home because a blue flag will be flying. Here’s what you can expect from a visit:
The Throne Hall, topped with a soaring tower, is one of the most eye-catching structures within the Royal Palace complex. The shimmering tiles on the roof glint in the sunshine and the inside is awash with bright yellow. You can see the opulent coronation thrones, flanked by golden busts to former Cambodian kings, with the front throne used by the new king and the rear throne for the queen, when applicable. Cast your eyes to the ceiling before you leave and admire the intricate fresco. The royal homes are close to the Throne Hall. Pop your head into the small building next to the Throne Hall and you can see the garments that the present king wore at his coronation. You can also visit the Royal Treasury. Some of the complex’s buildings are off limits to visitors, though it is clearly marked where you can and cannot go.
The Silver Pagoda houses Cambodia’s most sacred statue of the Lord Buddha, known as the Emerald Buddha. Actually made from jade, the giant statue is surrounded by numerous smaller Buddha images and glittering gems, with a jewel-studded golden statue right in front. The pagoda takes its name from the gleaming silver floor, although most of it is protected underneath a thick carpet. The walls are lined with scenes from the Ramayana, a Hindu epic, and there are several smaller funerary stupas throughout the grounds. Do note that photography is not permitted in several parts of the Silver Pagoda complex.
Practical information for visiting the Royal Palace
The dress code is the same as for most royal buildings and temples around Southeast Asia: shoulders and knees covered, for both men and women, and no sheer or torn clothing. It’s worth noting, however, that you cannot simply throw a sarong over bare shoulders to cover up; you must wear a fitted item of clothing such as a shirt or cardigan.
The admission fee to the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda is 25,000 KHR (approximately 6.20 USD).
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Other places of interest in Phnom Penh
The National Museum of Cambodia (admission 20,000 KHR / 5 USD) is located next door to the Royal Palace. It houses many artefacts and works of art from Cambodia’s history. Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the nearby Killing Fields of Choeung Ek provide harrowing insights into the country’s troubled past. Wat Phnom, the riverside, and the city’s varied memorials are amongst other local places of interest. Don’t miss the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda when visiting Phnom Penh.
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