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CAMBODIA'S ROYAL PALACE

Throne Hall at Cambodia's Royal Palace in Phnom Penh - photo James Loving NR

 

 

 

James Loving/National Radio Text Service

 

Various Kings of Cambodia dating back to the Angkor period built many palaces. Since that time palaces were erected in Angkorborei, Sambhopborei, Icanapura, Hariharalaya, Yacodharapura, Longvek, Oudong to its current location Chadomuk.

 

Friday August 2, 2002

A pleasant way to spend a day in Phnom Penh in a concentrated area is a visit to the Royal Palace. The National Museum, Independence Monument, restaurants and the river walk are within a few blocks of the palace grounds.

The palace was constructed in 1866 by King Norodom and is now home to Preah Bat Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk, King of Cambodia, and Preach Reach Akka-Mohesey Norodom Monineath Sihanouk, the Queen of Cambodia.

The compound stands on the site of the former citadel Banteay Kev and covers an area 435 meters long and 402 meters wide. It is surrounded by a high wall, which is decorated with Selma-shape and was constructed in 1866-70 under the reign of King Norodom. It is regarded as the symbol of the entire nation. The significance of the yellow and white colors of the pavilions on the grounds is yellow represents Buddhism and white Brahmanism.

The Royal Palace was constructed twice. It's previous location was in Ondong, north of Phnom Penh. All palace constructions were set up to the Khmer traditional architecture, built by Oknha Tenimit Mak a Khmer architect.

The many-tiered roofs topped by towers are a symbol of prosperity. The previous buildings were wooden and then reconstructed with concrete, but their original architectures are preserved.

Various Kings of Cambodia dating back to the Angkor period built many palaces. Since that time palaces were erected in Angkorborei, Sambhopborei, Icanapura, Hariharalaya, Yacodharapura, Longvek, Oudong to its current location Chadomuk.

Northeastern view of Royal Palace grounds. Royal Pavilion in background - photo James Loving NR

 

 

THE GROUNDS

The grounds are expansive but there is limited access.

Only four buildings were open to the public on the main palace grounds during our visit at the end of May 2002. Other buildings were under renovation and are off limits for visitors. The area immediately surrounding where the King resides is off limits to the public.

The residence of the King and Queen was constructed in 1927-30 by Khmer architect Oknha Tep Nimit Khieu under the reign of Preah Bat Monivong.

In his private residence the King's houses a collection of Cambodian artwork from artists around the world, and his office, where he pursues his Royal duties.

Preah Tineang Chanchhaya (Royal Pavilion) was constructed in 1913 under the reign of King Sisowath. It was built without walls so the moonlight can shine inside the hall.

The first floor is used for the performance of classical dances. The balcony is used for Royal appearances. The King or heads of state deliver speeches to the masses on the National Day or other special events. It is often used for entertaining and viewing of the King's movies.

Access to the structure is denied. The public can only see it from a distance. Signs on the walkway note that they are not permitted beyond this point.

The Royal Pavilion is most visible from outside the place grounds from a Sothaeros street viewpoint.

Royal Pavilion - photo James Loving NR

 

 


THRONE HALL

Throne Hall is the centerpiece. It was built in 1917 and inaugurated June 16, 1919 by his majesty Preah Bat Sisowat. It covers and area of 60 meters long by 30 meters wide and 59 meters higH.

The Royal Coronation Ceremony is held there. Other uses include an audience granted by the King on national and religious days, the presentation of credentials by foreign envoys and formal receptions and meetings with distinguished guests.

Designed in Khmer architecture it is also know as Preah Tineang Vincchay. Naga figures with many heads guard the stairway. All of the pillars supporting the ceiling are decorated with Kinnoras and Gurudas.

The throne is in the middle of the hall. The throne represents the Khmer monarchy from the first century. A canopy with nine tiers (the parasol covering above the throne) symbolizes peacefulness and heaven for human beings and the ambitions of human beings.


Pavilion Of Napoleon III.

The most controversial structure in the compound is the Pavilion Of Napoleon III. It was originally erected for the French Empress Eugenie during the inauguration day of the Suez Canal in 1869. Then Napoleon III presented it to King Norodom. It was then shipped to Cambodia and reassembled in the Royal Palace in 1876. Its architecture and gray color distinguishes it from the other buildings.

Napoleon III XXX - photo James Loving NR

 

 

It now functions as an art gallery of oil paintings, photos of former Cambodian Kings, Royal wardrobe, a chart of the Royal Family tree and other valuable art objects.

To escape the heat you can find relief in the Ho Preah Khan or Samritvimean building.

Erected in 1975-17 it is currently used to preserve Cambodian Royal regalia. The bottom floor is open to the public and is air-conditioned. There are no descriptions of the items enclosed in the display cases. In this case a guide would be helpful if you care to know the history of the objects.

Among the items on display are The Preah Moha Mokot Reach (The Great Crown of Victory), The Preah Khan Reach (The Sacred Sword), The Preah Lompeng Chey (The Victory Spear), The Kriss (The Dagger), The Preah Soporbatea (The Slippers) and The Veal Vichani (The Fan).

Outside the southeast wall of the palace is the house of the white elephant that is traditionally used for special regal occasions including Royal births, deaths or weddings.

Preah Tineang Phochany was built in 1912. It has a stage and is also used as a dancing hall. Dinner party's for distinguished guests are also held there.


SILVER PAGODA

The Silver Pagoda acquired its name because of its floor, which is made up of 5,000 silver tiles. Inside hundreds of Royal gifts received by the Royal family over the years are displayed. A solid gold Buddha encrusted with, 9584 diamonds and weighing 90 kilos and a small 17th century emerald and baccarat crystal Buddha are among the items for viewing.

Silver Pagoda - photo Municipality of Phnom Penh

 

The building also houses Wat Phnom Mondap, containing Buddha's footprint. The walls surrounding the compound are the oldest part of the palace. They are covered with frescos depicting episodes from the Khmer version of the Ramayana, the Reamker.

The entrance to the Silver Pagoda area is interesting. Upon entering you will see one building that has many pictures of the King when he was young. There are others sections with artifacts.

Two of the most interesting displays are typical Khmer houses in pristine condition. The first that you will see is what appears to be a small one-room house. When you enter it is amazing how the use of space is maximized. Its like a kernal of corn popping open to a pop corn.

You often hear how Khmer families are raised in one-room structures that you often see when you travel on the roads of Cambodia. Once your inside this house you can relate to how that can be accomplished. It is astonishing how such a small space can be utilized.

Inside it expands giving one a feeling that they are in n area three times the size of its outside appearance. There is a private bedroom that is entered from the living/from room area. The living room area also functions as a bedroom that has the equivalent to two queen sized beds. As you walk to the rear of the house there is a small balcony area on the right that connects to a small kitchen area.

The house sits on stilts. Depending on what part of the country and the elevation where the house is situated the area beneath the house structure can serve a dual purpose. At the palace is used as a work area for sewing. If the house were situated in a low level area, during a wet or rain season the water would flow under it and not in.

Once you leave that house from the rear exit, there is a more elaborate house straight away after passing several souvenir shops.

There are several shops selling some interesting items. The silverware stands out. A small spoon cost US $2 and a fork $7. A salesperson said the silver content was 90%.

When you depart the Royal Palace you can have lunch at many the river front restaurants within three blocks of the palace on the Tonle Sap river front

Independence Monument - Municipality of Phnom Penh

 


After lunch you can visit the National Museum located one block north of the palace. Depending on how much time you spend there you may have dinner at many restaurants nearby or take a stroll along the river front walk.


INDEPENDENCE MONUMENT

Independence Monument is a healthy walk through Hun Sen Park. If you continue walking you will come to a main shopping area on Sihanouk Boulevard.

The Royal Palace is open to the public from 7:30-11 am and 2-5 pm daily for a US $3 entry fee, $2 additional for use of a still camera and $5 for the use of a video camera. Guides are available for $5 and up depending on the size of the group.

Guides are located near the ticket booth. Female guides wear red jackets. All have ID badges and their pictures are on the ticket booth. The palace fronts Sothaeros Boulevard between Streets 184 and 240.

A visit to the Royal Palace is a pleasant way… to spend a day… in Phnom Penh.

***

Also ANGKOR WAT Temples of Cambodia

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