September 7, 2012

Cambodia: Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda

Phnom Penh's shimmering skyline

            Located in Sothearos Boulevard is Phnom Penh’s landmark, The Royal Palace and The Silver Pagoda. 

            The complex was first established by King Norodom in 1886. The structures were not constructed simultaneously, that it took 7 decades to complete to complex. The architecture combines Khmer with European elements.

            The landmark is divided into two areas. First is the Royal Palace, the official venue for court ceremonies and the abode of the royal family. Second is the Silver Pagoda, which houses the official temple of the king and the stupas (tombs or shrines) of the royal family.

            To gain access to the grounds, there is an entrance fee of $6.50 or P275.00. Only the prominent buildings are open to the public and taking pictures inside are prohibited. Quite an unreasonable price for seeing only the exterior views, but thankfully, the grounds and the buildings are well maintained.

Complex Tour

From the riverfront park, the first building that dominates the scenery is the Chanchhaya Pavilion, which is linked with the fortification of the complex.

Royal Palace

In reality, the Royal Palace is [again] divided into the public and the private areas. The public area is The Throne Hall compound, which is the official venue for court ceremonies. The private area is the Royal Palace, the abode of the royal family, which is closed to the public.

1.      Chanchhaya Pavilion
Constructed in 1913, the Chanchhaya Pavilion is one of the biggest structures in the complex. It’s a classic pavilion which acts as a gateway and also as the podium where the King can address the crowd. Royal banquets are also held inside the Pavilion.

            200 meters to the left of the Chanchhaya Pavilion is the entrance to the complex. After paying the admission fee, you’ll be directed to walk another 100 meters or so until you reach the part wherein you can see the Victory Gate.

2.      Preah Tineang Tevea Vinichhay or “The Throne Hall”
The Throne Hall is the official court of the King wherein the people may seek audience. Official meetings are also held in this building. 

Notable designs of the Throne Hall are the 59-meter spire with a sculpture of Brahma and the detailed statues of the apsara dancers connected to the columns.

3.      Hor Samran Phirun
On the right of The Throne Hall is the “Royal Waiting Area”.

4.      Hor Samrith Vimean
Located on the left of The Throne Hall is “The Bronze Palace”, where a collection of royal costumes are displayed.

5.      Phochani Pavilion
Initially built as a classical dance theater, the open hall pavilion is now used for Royal receptions and meetings.

6.      Napoleon III Pavilion
The first permanent structure and the only exception to the Khmer style architecture, the Napoleon III Pavilion looks like an old charming house. Originally, it was a gift by King Napoleon III to King Norodom of Cambodia.

7.      Preah Reach Damnak Chan
The administrative offices of the complex.

In between the Phochani Pavilion and the Napoleon III Pavilion is the access to The Silver Pagoda compound.

Silver Pagoda

            Upon entering the compound, the first building to see is the right-side view of the Silver Pagoda.

1.      Wat Preah Keo Morokat
The official temple of the King and is also a repository for cultural and religious treasures. 

The Pagoda is also known as The Emerald Buddha Temple, the primary Buddha of the pagoda. The temple is named after the 5,329 silver floor tiles that cover the entire interior of the temple.

2.      Mondapa of Satra & Tripitaka
A library containing sacred texts and Buddhist statues.

3.      Phnom Mondop
Artificial Hill symbolizing Mt. Kailassa.

4.      Statue of King Norodom

5.   Model of Angkor Wat

Stupa is a shrine with numerous functions. Some are used as a place of worship while others contain the remains of the Buddha or some of his relics. In the Silver Pagoda compound, the stupas are used as a memorial containing the ashes of former kings.

6.      Stupa of King Suramarith and Queen Kossomak

7.      Stupa of Princess Kantha Bophat

8.      Stupa of King Ang Duong

9.      Stupa of King Norodom

Entrance Fee: $6.50
Opening Hours: 8:00 am to 11:00 am, 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Address: Sothearos Boulevard, between Street 240 and Street 184

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