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Phnom Penh – National Museum, Royal Palace

Royal Palace, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Royal Palace, Phnom Penh

Our first destination was the Royal Place, but we were not admitted because Heidi wore a sleeveless shirt. We completely had forgotten about that! So instead of buying a T-shirt at the “conveniently” placed shop next to the ticket office, we headed for the National Museum nearby.

Of course, the Tuk Tuk drivers waiting and watching outside knew immediately what had happened. One approached us and told us that the same policy, no sleeveless shirt, applies for the nearby National Museum as well. This is why we should go to visit the Killing Fields, 15 kilometers away, instead, using his service of course. Naturally, this was all nonsense and we strolled through the National Museum for a good hour, a very impressive building with a stunning courtyard.

A very remarkable collection of statues and stone sculptures from the pre-Angkor (6th to 9th Century AD) and Angkor Period (11th to 13th Century AD) is on display here. In particular striking is how well those civilizations mastered stone carving. Unfortunately, those civilizations seem to be still relatively unknown, since neither a period nor an origin can be named for an important part of the displayed artworks. We did not see any guide in the museum, because this would have surely enhanced our visit. Reading a bit about archeological work in Cambodia afterwards, we learned that the first archeological field work, especially in Angkor Wat, was done by the French during colonial times. After almost half a century of war, it was only resumed in the early 1990s.

The Royal Palace, the residence of the royal family, and its extensive garden, is hidden behind a high wall, surrounding the entire complex. Nevertheless, the shiny roofs of pagodas, stupas and pavilions manage to peek from behind, announcing its immense grandeur. We found the interior of the Silver Pagoda the most impressive part with the Emerald Buddha sitting on top of what seems a super high throne. Carved from one big junk of jade, the head to this Buddha is almost transparent. There is also a large number of other delicate and exquisite metal works and stone carvings displayed there, like little trees with golden leaves.

The Throne Hall is the other big attraction, lots of gold décor including the golden throne, plus the largest carpets we have ever seen. Large parts of the complex are off limits, so what looks so huge from the outside can be visited in a good hour.

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