We started the day with a visit to the Royal Palace built in 1866 by King Norodom, now the home of the Cambodian King. The buildings here were very beautiful and colourful.
The highlight of the palace visit was the silver pagoda. The name comes from the floor which is made up of 5000 solid silver tiles, a total of 6 tonnes of silver. Sadly, despite being made to remove our shoes the majority of the tiles are covered with large rugs, presumably for protection. The other stunning feature of this pagoda are the beautiful treasures inside, gifts to the royal family over the years. A solid gold Buddha weighing 90kg and encrusted with 9,584 diamonds is the main attraction but there are many beautiful and expensive pieces in this pagoda, no pictures were allowed here.
The walls surrounding the pagoda are the oldest part of the palace and are covered with one large fresco showing the Khmer version of the Ramayana. Although it has sustained weather damage in places the 650m long painting is still impressive.
Some tombs of former Kings stand in the grounds between the fresco walls and the pagoda.
Finally to finish off the day we paid a visit to the National Museum which is housed in a recently restored beautiful red building originally opened in 1920. As with a lot of Cambodia it was devastated and evacuated during the Khmer Rouge reign. Although the actual exhibits were interesting and the building externally stunning the inside really felt in need of a face lift. The walls were dirty, the glass needed cleaning and the whole interior felt poor compared to the air conditioned and slick Angkor National Museum we had been lucky enough to see the day before due to our delayed flight.
It’s also a shame that Phnom Phen in general feels less safe than Siem Reap which we really loved. Beggars approach the car when we stopped in traffic and it’s not safe for westerners to walk in many areas at night. Homeless families sleep rough by the roadside and the whole place felt quite dirty, rather like the large Vietnam cities did. This is the state of a developing nation, still trying to recover from its stricken past. Ultimately the people here are friendly, smile a lot and are happy to welcome you to their country.