Simply put, the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh is important because it is where the king and Royal Family live. It is the city’s White House, and Phnom Penh, the country’s Washington D.C. If only for its colorful glass tiled roof and gorgeous gardens, the palace is a remarkable building that definitely ranks among the most stunning buildings in Southeast Asia. Located on Samdach Sothearos Boulevard along Sisowath Quay, the Royal Palace is the pride of the Cambodian people although only a few areas within are accessible by the public.
Tourists are allowed to see the Throne Room as well as the equally magnificent Silver Pagoda that is located within the palace grounds. The Silver Pagoda is an important national and religious structure since it is the home of the two most expensive Buddha statues in the world: the life-size, 200-pound gold Buddha that is decked with thousands of diamond pieces and the emerald Buddha that is made from jade (others say the material used was really Baccarat crystal). The pagoda is also referred to as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Also, the pagoda’s floor is inlaid with 5,000 pieces of tiles weighing one kilo a piece and made from pure silver. This is surely a one-of-a-kind pagoda and definitely one of the most expensive Buddhist temples in this part of the world.
Phnom Penh is located in the south-central regions of Cambodia, while Cambodia is located between Vietnam and Thailand. It has gone through a history of wars and political conflicts, which is why the country has not yet truly taken off as a significant nation in Southeast Asia. The most popular fact about Cambodia’s history is the dark regime of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. A mere mention of these names can send a modern Cambodian man into hiding until today. It is said that the Khmer Rouge executed or caused the death of more than 2,000,000 Cambodians and other nationals residing in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979. This is one of the darkest moments in history, not only of Cambodia’s but of humanity’s. Today, the 20 million-strong population of Cambodia all has stories to tell about a family member, relative and friend that have suffered from the Khmer Rouge.
Ninety percent of the country’s total population is now found in the city of Phnom Penh. There is much poverty here, but that is not apparent in the beauty that emanates from the structures of the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda. These two expensive buildings stand magnificently along the Tonle Sap and Mekong Rivers. (Phnom Penh is situated along the site where three rivers meet. They are the Mekong, Tonle Sap and Bassac Rivers.) People taking a cruise tour on the river are mesmerized at the sight of these two important landmarks as the morning sun brilliantly lights up their facades.
Entrance to the Royal Palace is only US$3 and an additional US$2 for those with a still camera and US$5 for those with a video camera. The Palace is open daily from 7:00 AM to 11:00 AM and from 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM. Tourists must cover their knees and shoulders before entering.