First day in Phnom Penh and all attractions were closed due to the Independence Day celebration. Securing a bus ticket to Siem Reap leaving around noon gave me the whole morning to explore the capital city. National Museum of Cambodia and Royal Palace both require an entrance fees that are quite steep. Due to my tight budget, I needed to pick one. Since I had enough museum visits in Ho Chi Minh City, I allotted my budget for the Royal Palace.
Before entering the palace, I went to the grounds of the National Museum to marvel at its striking architecture. Meanwhile, looking for the Royal Palace’s main gate was a breeze since I already explored that side of the city during my walking tour. It is open for tourists at 8 AM and I was second on the line when they opened for that day. Please be reminded on your visit that the palace strictly implements rules in visiting the landmark. Some of these are wearing shirts with sleeves, decent footwear, and no above-the-knee shorts.
The officer collects 6.5USD for the entrance, not sure if they accept Cambodia Riel but my change was in riel. The fee allows the ticket bearer entry to the Royal Palace compound as well as the adjacent Silver Pagoda complex. With the steep fee, some areas of the palace are still limited to visitors’ access. In addition, the fee doesn’t include guides to accompany you during your tour. A map is provided with the buildings labeled.
Before the sprawling compound, tourists still need to weave a short strip on the side of a building. From the Victory Gate, you can already see the grandeur Preah Tineang Tevea Vinichhay or throne hall. If you’ll notice, the halls and pavilions have wide gardens. This is due to the involvement of the French administrators when King Norodom I moved the capital to Phnom Penh in 1886. Colors utilized in most all of the buildings play between pale yellow to bright gold.
For you to know some facts, make yourself close to groups having guides to eavesdrop what the guide shares to the tourists. Eavesdropping, I knew that the royal palace has a total of 4 gates; victory gate on the east used by royal family and VIPS; funeral gate on the northern side only opened after the death of a monarch; executing gate on the west for condemned prisoners exiting the palace to be killed; and commoners gate on the south that also connects the complex to the Silver Pagoda compound.
Other buildings in the royal compound are the Moonlight Pavilion, Hor Samranphirum, Hor Samritvimean, Preah Reach Damnakchan, Pavilion of Napoleon III, and Preah Tineang Phochani.
Tourists can exit the royal palace using the south gate where an alley connects it to the adjacent Silver Pagoda or Temple of Emerald Buddha. You can easily distinguish the Silver Pagoda upon your entry because of its towering columns. A metal fence surrounds the whole temple. The temple contains tons of national treasures of Cambodia, hence taking photos is not allowed inside the temple. Golden and jeweled Buddha statues such as the emerald crystal Buddha, the most precious treasure inside the pagoda, can be seen inside the structure. Watchers require tourists to take off their shoes before entering the Silver Pagoda.
Few meters west of the Silver Pagoda is a replica of the Angkor Wat elevated from the ground and surrounded by a moat. Pointed and towering stupas within the compound are dedicated to some members of the previous royal families. Kailassa Mountain also attracts attention from visitors as the area is covered by trees best for a break from viewing the temples inside the two compounds.
Before finally making your exit out of the compound, you could drop by some exhibition halls and museums. At times, you can catch some presentations like playing of traditional Cambodian music. If you’re planning to buy some items related to Cambodia before you head home, there are also souvenir shops available.
The short visit to the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda makes the stopover in Phnom Penh an interesting one. Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in the world yet extravagances are very visible within the walls of the compounds. Entrance fee during my visit was 6.5USD but I heard it was increased to 10USD so good luck to backpackers with a tight budget.
ROYAL PALACE AND SILVER PAGODA
Address: Samdach Sothearos Blvd (3), Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Opening Hours: 8–11AM, 2–5PM
Phone: +855 10 292 240