Thursday, February 21, 2008

SILVER PAGODA: A shimmering delight at the heart of the city

Still part of the Royal Palace is the Silver Pagoda which is another compound located at the north side, separated by a confined walkway. The site is actually referred to in Khmer as Wat Preah Keo Morokat (The Temple of the Emerald Buddha) but was commonly called as the “Silver Pagoda” due to the silver floor tiles that are ornately adorned in the temple building.

side view of the Silver Pagoda with false doors

Sideview of the Wat Preah Keo with its well decorated false doors.

The compound offers another majestic experience starting from the beautiful landscape, the colorful garden, and the stunning, unique architecture of the temples, library, stupas, shrines, monuments, open halls, and galleries.

statue of King Norodom

Beautiful orchids at the garden, with the shrine housing the statue of King Norodom at the back.

As we found our way to the compound, we found the primary building, the Wat Preah Keo which is also the royal temple. It houses many of the national treasures including gold and jeweled Buddha statues. Entering the temple we have to leave our shoes and slippers as a sign of respect. This time, I went inside and decided to linger for awhile. I assumed that it was forbidden to take photos inside so I didn’t bother taking some snapshots. I will just try to describe it. Hopefully you'll imagine me there.

The place is glimmering with gold, silver and jeweled displays. The floor is fully furnished with a red carpet that I decided to sit and then kneel (trying to mimic what the others were doing). It was a bit cold inside. It smelt of burning incense, mix of people's perfume and that distinct sweet, strange smell that I could not figure what. But I realized, I always smell it everytime I went inside the temples in Cambodia.

I saw some tourists bringing offers and praying to the big Buddha at the center. They call it “Buddha Maitreya” or Buddha of the Future. The 90-kg golden standing Buddha is covered with 2,086 diamonds including a 25 carat diamond in its crown and a 20 carat diamond entrenched in the chest. (I researched the stats here as I have no idea then how many they were). I literally fell on my knee just by looking at it. A shimmering delight. I’ve never seen such a shining beauty. I've seen the huge Golden Buddha in Bangkok, but this I think is far more beautiful.

I tried my luck and went over the center and knelt. I prayed too. No seriously, I did. I don't know why but the place was enticing. I prayed something like... “Dear Emerald Buddha, I don’t believe in you but I respect you like any belief or religion for that matter so please be kind enough to grant my wish…” Since I didn’t bring anything (flowers, fruits, etc) for my offering, I just dropped some Khmer money into the box.

Other displays include relics of Buddha, small gold and silver stupas, a collection of gifts, and contributions and gifts from other nobles and royalties.

Stupa of Princess Kantha Bopha with Dhammasala

This is the stupa built in memory of Princess Kantha Bopha, the daughter of former King Sihanouk who died at the age of four due to leukemia. This is one of the newest additions to the compound built only in the 60s. At the back is the Dhammasala.

After that, we toured around the compound and were mesmerized by the large stupas that sprang here and there. In plain sight, I found myself standing in front of the Stupa of Princess Kantha Bopha. Built only in 1960, this serves as a memorial sanctuary of the beloved daughter of the former King Sihanouk who died in1952 at the age of four due to leukemia.

Just behind this stupa is the Dhammasala, an open hall used for Buddhist monks to recite texts and also as a royal reception area.

We also saw the Stupa of King Ang Doung, which contains the ashes of the King Ang Doung (1845-1860), founder of the current dynasty and the great-great-great grandfather of King Sihamoni.

stupa of King Ang Doung

This is the stupa for King Ang Doung.

At the back of the main temple, we found the miniature model of the Angkor Wat. It was laid on a huge platform surrounded by a pond full of Japanese koi.

Angkor Wat model

At the back of the main temple with the miniature Angkor Wat model at the platform.

Japanese koi

Surrounding the platform are these huge Japanese koi.

Moving on, we found various souvenir shops selling all sorts of items including photocopied books on the historical sites in Cambodia and of course, the very cheap Lonely Planet books.

souvenir shop

Every tourist site in Cambodia has souvenir shop, exactly like this one. With two large elephants guarding the door and a smaller one at the left (not seen).

friendly Khmer

One of the great treasures I take home with me are the warmth and friendliness of the Khmer people. They like to smile a lot. This little girl is really cute. The woman on the right could be her mom or grandma. I found them smiling at me while I was heading for the Preah Expo. The kiddo gave me a curious look :-)

At the tail end is the Preah Sihamoni’s Expo which exhibits the story of King Norodom Sihamoni including his childhood and how he became the king after his father Norodom Sihanouk. He was a cultural ambassador and a classical dance instructor.

Preah Sihamoni’s Expo1

Entrance of the Preah Sihamoni's Expo with two mythical guards in front and a bas relief on the right patterned from the original bas relief in Angkor Wat.

expo2

A woman monk looking through the photo exhibit of the King.

expo3

Inside the Preah Expo featuring ceramic dolls re-enacting a royal ritual.

After going through the winding and maze-like route of the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda, Oki and I went out of the compound, terribly exhausted but fulfilled. This was our last day in Cambodia and we were happy at how we came to fulfill our itinerary. We still have a lot of time to still go around the city but we opted to go back to our guesthouse and take enough rest.

At night we have to meet Toe over dinner. We don't know where and how but we were already agitated by the idea.

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10 comments:

haggis basher said...

Again, fantastic pictures from your trip. I particularry like the last ghostly image. If this trip is coming to an end where are we off to next?

Sidney said...

Impressive...impressive...
but I guess that was the purpose of building it. To impress people.

Great you were able to meet Toe.

kyels said...

Impressive photos! I love the second photo the most; the composition especially!

:D

pieterbie said...

Wow, such riches, such treasure in such a poor country. But then the same goed everywhere: there is a form of poverty in Belgium as well, and we are a very rich country.
You asked if I lived close to the sea?
Yep. I guess I can walk from my place to the beach in about 10 to 15 minutes. It takes me but 5 minutes to drive to the new cinema complex by the racecourse and the seaside.
Love the ceramic statues!

cathy said...

hmm..the interiors must be really impressive.this image of a non-believer kneeling and praying before a 90-kg buddha creates a certain effect in me. nice work, rayts!

luthien said...

pupunta din ako jaaaaaaaaan! di ko nga lang kelan. hehehe. japan muna. hehe.

my gulch said...

Mike,
next stop will be Vietnam. :-D

Sidney:
you're right. we pay and enter so that we can say our 'oohs' and 'aahs' while looking extra fool oogling with so much amazement. yep it was night to meet Toe in Cambodia. a good experience.

Peter:
you are right. beauty and ugliness are good in combination. we just have to focus more into the beauty of a country.

cathy:
hehe. have you imagined me well? a non-believer like me. but you know what, i almost believed in Buddha at one point. almost have myself converted. but that's another story all together.

luthien!
talaga? wow punta kang Japan. assignment ba yan o personal. sama mo si hubby? hehe. good luck sa trip mo.

ndiginiz said...

Tena koe ehoa
Something strange just happened? I was sure there was an image of a woman and a child beside a wagon wheel or cart but, it's not in the series of images I 'm looking at now?

I really have a special liking for the ornate designs of the gothic, if you like, nature of Asian temples like the Stupa. There's a wonderful element of history and ancient interest in the design itself that comes to mind every time I view such buildings.

Toe said...

Hahaha... I love your prayer to the Emerald Buddha. You know what amazes me? All those riches and it seems that there is not much security. I love those stupas... I find those imposing structures the best part of the Royal Palace. Ay, koi pala yung mga isdang 'yon. :) That angle with the orchids is breath-taking. :)

my gulch said...

hi Toe!
sana lang matupad hiniling ko sa malaking budha, hehe. onga, ang daming kayamanan dun pero parang walang masyadong security. kung sa Pinas yun, malamang pingas-pingas na yung buddha sa mga magnanakaw. pero siguro takot talaga ang mga tao dun (pati magnanakaw) kay budha kaya di rin ganun kahigpit ang security.

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