The third time’s a charm.
Our hotel was literally right across the street, but our nights were long and we were on Gould time in the mornings. We tried twice to see the Royal Palace grounds, and each walk over there we were pestered incessantly by ignoble tuk tuk drivers hoping to change our plans for the day.
“Hello! You want tuk tuk? Excuse me. Hello? You want to go to Royal Palace? Royal Palace is closed now. Opens at 2. I take you to “Keeleeng Feel” (Killing Fields) and bring you back at 2. Excuse me, you want to go to Royal Palace?”
COME ON. We are clearly trying to escape from this conversation!! So many “No. No thank you. It’s okay, we’ll walk. We will just see. No thank you. Thank you. Okay bye.”‘s.
Secretly we debated amongst ourselves whether the drivers were right, or just trying to make a sale.
However, upon agreeing to a tour guide, and preparing to pay for our tickets, our “helpful” tour guide noted that my mom and I would not be allowed in based on our outfits. Alas, I had forgotten to bring my kimono to cover my shoulders. My mom’s scarf would not suffice either, as scarves are not allowed (why??). This “knowledgeable” tour guide also insisted that my dress was too short – even though I wore the exact same one the last time I had visited!!
In order to enter, we would each need to rent a crappy t-shirt for $4. Yeah, right! I could buy a new, cute shirt from the market for that price. Also, we only would’ve had about 35 minutes in the Palace at that point.
On our next attempt, we were not to be foiled by the drivers’ lies that the Palace was closed. We knew better than that. But the grounds did look mysteriously vacant of pedestrians and salespeople…
This time the gate was closed. Give us a break!!
So, like I said, the third time was a charm. We dressed appropriately, arrived on time, and walked steadily past anyone trying to divert us to a different itinerary.
The King does not actually live in any of the buildings that are accessible to tourists. (Makes sense.) When the Palace is closed, the King can walk around, otherwise he stays in his building. Regardless, he does not walk around the area where the tourists go.
The King’s mother also lives here. She is not the Queen, but only the King’s mother. The King is not married and does not have any children. Next in line for the throne is one of his brothers.
This pavilion is used for parties for the Royal family and their guests.
This is probably my favorite building – until several decades ago, it was the building used for the king’s elephant rides. He would climb the stairs, and the elephant would stand below the ledge, where the king would mount. Elephants were a very common method of transportation in Cambodia until they became too slow compared to other methods.
This building is the Throne Room. It was only used once: on coronation day. No photos are allowed of the inside, nor were we allowed to go inside, but it looked quite magnificent.
Entering the Silver Pagoda.
Contrary to what I previously assumed, a pagoda is not a temple, but the grounds where the temple sits. The entire arena is called the pagoda (pronounced “BAH-go-dah). “Temple” (or wat) refers to the individual building.
The Silver Temple has a floor made out large blocks of silver – five tons of it!!
Funny that the first time I went (without a guide), I didn’t notice the floor at all. I had heard that the floor was made of silver, but didn’t see any silver on the floor (it is carpeted), so I thought I was in the wrong place or misunderstood.
In fact, most of the floor is covered, except for a small roped-off area that you can view, the edges near the wall, and a very small block that you can stand on if you wish.
Before entering the Silver Temple (where photos were not allowed either), you must remove your shoes out of respect.
Besides the silver, a life-sized solid-gold Buddha is displayed front and center. The statue is contains 2086 diamonds (the largest is 25 carats!). There is also an Emerald Buddha carved out of the gem. (My parents and I thought that the guy who made it must have been so nervous about messing it. It was small and we joked that it started out huge, and kept getting smaller and smaller due to mistakes! Just our imaginations. ;)) (Source: Lonely Planet.)
Finally, we approached a small temple hidden away on this little green hill.
See you next time, Royal Palace!