Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Cambodia’s Royal Palace: Something Majestic!

“Once in a while I will witness a majestic place and say my ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ and remember it so well when I am old that once again I will travel through time and reminisce!”

~ Rayts talking to herself (after witnessing something 'majestic')~

Like a true kingdom, every activity in Phnom Penh circles around its Royal Palace, a complex of buildings which to this day, serves as the Cambodian home of King Norodom Sihamoni and former King Norodom Sihanouk. The royal palace, known in Khmer as Preah Barom Reachea Vaeng Chaktomuk was constructed over a century ago also to serve as a venue for the performance of court ceremonies and rituals and as a symbol of the Kingdom itself. The Royal Palace is located between Streets 240 and 18.

to the Royal Palace

On our way to the gate of the Royal Palace at around one in the afternoon.

guard at the palace

The lone guard in front of the palace.

We finished visiting the National Museum at around 1:00 pm, the Royal Palace would not be open until 2:00pm so we opted to walk the few miles. It was a bit windy but the heat was getting to us. We met a few tourists who were already at the gate of the palace, waiting for it to open. In Cambodia, where there are tourists, there are vendors. And they come in all ages and sorts.

While waiting, we’ve been passed by so many vendors selling hammocks, postcards, food, drinks, etc. Oki even befriended one of the young vendors. Meanwhile, I met two Singaporean women who were also waiting for the palace to open. They came to Phnom Penh on official business but stayed for more days to tour around the capital city.

tourists and vendors

The circuitous tale of the tourists and the vendors. "In Cambodia, where there are tourists, there are vendors".

At exactly 2pm, the gate of the palace opened and immediately we headed for the queue to get our entrance tickets. We paid $6.50 each (inclusive of camera or video cam). The lady at the booth repeated to me the amount (which was said in thick accent that I didn’t quite understand), she smiled and gave me two brochures about the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda.

Chanchhaya Pavillon

The famous Chanchhaya Pavillon. This shot was taken in the morning, thus the beautiful sky. We've passed by this route three times. At night, the place is gorgeous! See previous post.

After passing through the narrow path on our way to the main complex, everything went on smoothly. Inside the brochures are route guides and history of the site. Some of the visitors brought tourist guides with them. Oki and I just went on with the flow of the people (we didn’t even follow the route).

Passing by a narrow path we were met by a bunch of bright yellow chrysanthemum all the way to the main complex. I was astounded by the beauty of the place. “Wow. This palace rocks!” Not only are the architecture amazing, the landscape is like a cutout from coffeetable books. The palace is surrounded by gardens with tropical flowers and plants. Really beautiful. Suddenly, I felt like I was brought into another place.

The first structure we came upon was the Pochani Pavillon. It is an open hall originally constructed as a classical dance theater. The pavilion, built in 1912, is currently used for Royal receptions and meetings. We watched people ascend into its wide and shiny stairs. There were monks everywhere. They suit the place so well especially with their tangerine robes. When we got to the top, we have to leave our slippers to enter.

Pochani Pavillon

The Pochani Pavillon with its beautiful garden.

monks ascending

Monks ascending the stairs, going inside the Pochani Pavillon.

leave your slippers

At the top you'll find this sign: "Please shoes leave here"

Then there’s the Throne Hall, the primary audience hall of the King, used for coronations and diplomatic and other official meetings. This is said to be the second to be built in the complex. The first was built from wood under King Norodom. The present building was constructed in 1917 and inaugurated by King Sisowath in 1919. I had the nicest time taking photos of this particular structure. To me, it looks like a huge boat with all the flags playing with the wind.

Throne Hall

The beautiful and majestic Throne Hall.

Like I said, monks were everywhere. Their robes stood out amongst the crowd and they always look good side by side the palace. Most of the monks we met were really friendly to us and most of them are like us, travelers. They were very kind to take photos with us.

monks in pochani

Monks going to the Pochani Pavillon.

Hor Samrith Phimean

Could be them again? This time overlooking the Hor Samrith Phimean (Bronze Palace). This structure was built in 1917 as a repository for the royal regalia and attributes.

One interesting structure is the Napoleon III Pavilion. From afar, it looked so out of place. A European-style doll house amid the grand and distinctly Khmer-style buildings. The pavilion was actually the first permanent structure on the site of the Royal Palace. It was built for Empress Eugenie of France, the wife of Napoleon III, which served as the venue for the inauguration of the Suez Canal. It is built entirely from iron. In 1876 Emperor Napoleon III handed over the building to King Norodom of Cambodia as a gift. There is a royal emblem somewhere in the building. A letter “N” emblazed on the doors, which to no avail need not be altered. N = Napoleon; N = Norodom.

Napolean III

The out of place, Napoleon III Pavillon.

The Royal Palace is a majestic place and part of that is due to its beautiful landscape. Take the Damnak Chan for example. They have these beautiful-looking, miniature trees that really fascinated me. Damnak Chan currently houses the administrative offices of the Royal Palace and was originally constructed in 1953 for the High Council of the Throne. Damnak Chan displays a mix of Khmer and Western architectural styles.

pochani with flowers

Chrysanthemums surrounding the Pochani Pavillon.

Damnak Chan with tree

Damnak Chan at the background with its famous pruned tree.

...up next is the Silver Pagoda (still part of the Royal Palace Complex) :-D



Toe said...

Wow Rayts... unique talaga yung mga angles and shots mo ng Royal Palace. Haha... but I've never seen photos of all those shoes before... iba ka talaga. :)

BTW, some trivia for you... when King Sihamoni was under house arrest by the Khmer Rouge, he was the one cleaning the Throne Hall. About thirty years later, that was where he was crowned king of Cambodia. :)

haggis basher said...

Amazing photo's...... the colours are fantastic.

Nice to be back on your holiday with you..... lol!

Anonymous said...

I do love the colours, all very vibrant.

Just the one question, aren't those North Korean flags?

pieterbie said...

I'll tell you one thing: it is very different from our royal palace. That Throne Hall looks like a large seafaring vessel.
Pretty amazing, looks like a place well worth visiting. You seem to have done an amazing job of getting the exposure just right in these photos.

my gulch said...

Hi Toe!
great trivia. i've always wondered what was the Royal Palace was like during the Khmer Rouge regime. i've read somewhere that, the King left the palace during the dark regime? i don't if it's true but if i were him, i would have fled too. such majestic place would only look phony with all those killings happening around a country in chaos and your people dying here and there.

alam mo, tuwang-tuwa ako dyan sa mga sapatos na yan. ang totoo'y hindi na ako pumasok sa loob kase ayaw kong iwan ang rubber shoes ko, mahirap kayang magsintas tapos madudumihan pa ang medyas ko, hehe. sinilip ko na lang para wala naman akong ma-miss. saka bawal mag-picture sa loob. tapos pinagtitingnan ko na lang yung iba't ibang uri ng sapatos na nakahalera sa labas. nakakatuwa. nahiya lang akong tumambay ng matagal kase madaming nakapila. pero, isa sa pinakapaborito ko ang Royal Palace. Hamak na maganda siya kesa Grand Palace ng Thailand sa Bangkok. Ang ganda talaga ng Royal Palace. Sobra. At saka tipong lahat ng kuha ko maganda, kase napaka-photogenic ng lugar!

as always, thanks for appreciating!

so silly of me to assume that those are Cambodia's flags well in fact I knew so well what it looks like. ahh, bummer!

YES, it is the North Korean flag. Why is it there? I am not sure but, I remember Toe told us that the PM of North Korea paid an official visit to Cambodia when we were there so that probably explains it. But I have to check with Toe. Right now, that is the only explanation I could think of why the flags of North Korea are hanging in the Royal Palace. You are such an observant. Of course you know it's the flag of North Korea!

don't you find the sky a bit too dull? I was a bit frustrated with that and i thought you might point it out. getting the white balance is quite difficult so i tried to concentrate getting the right exposure on the structure rather than work on with getting the right contrast of the sky. that is the reason why i also posted the Chanchaya Pavillon shot, because I really like the exposure there (blue sky and nice structure). the place is so photogenic, it's hard not get the exposure right.

Toe said...

Hehe... you are right... it was the president of North Korea who was here when you were here.

Si Haring Sihanouk... yung ama ni Haring Sihamoni... yung kasalukuyang hari... bestfriend niya si Kim Il-Sung, yung tatay ni Kim Jong-Il. May palasyo pa yata si Sihanouk si Pyongyang. In fact, lahat ng bodyguard niya, North Koreans. Maganda ang relasyon ng Cambodia at North Korea.

my gulch said...

ahh okay. President pala. Socialist Republic nga pala ang form of government nila. ah gets ko na! Thanks Toe!

Sidney said...

I wish I was a king... that is a nice bahay kubo! ;-)

kyels said...

Maganda! I love the photos Rayts. With the documentation that you did it only strengthens my wish to fly over to Cambodia for a visit. It's a country filled with historical architectures. Definitely an adventure for me.


my gulch said...

that's a nice idea. a bahay kubo motif for a palace. a majestic looking bahay kubo in heart of Manila where King Sidney Snoeck lives.

salamat. i hope the feelings grow so that when you finished your thesis and graduate on time, you'll have a trip to Cambodia as a gift to yourself.

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