Published: February 13th 2011February 4th 2011
Our first night in Phnom Penh we had a recommendation from our guide for an upper scale Cambodian restaurant, Malis (means Jasmine in Cambodian). When we got there they were closed for a private party but directed us down the road to another restaurant owned by the same company, Topaz. It was Western style bordering on French but was very good. Jason had steak which was a treat on the trip so were we glad the first restaurant was booked.
The next morning our first stop was the Royal Palace. Cambodia still has a king but today he is much like the royals in England being just a figure head. The first Royal Palace at the current location was built in 1866 by the French for King Norodom and has been used by the royals except during the time of the Khmer Rouge. The current king, Norodom Sihamoni was crowned in October 2004. The flag showed that he was in his living quarters while we were there but they are closed to the public. We were able to visit the Throne Hall where the king's confidants, generals and royal officials once carried out their duties. It is still in
Used as the residence of the King
use today as a place for religious and royal ceremonies (such as coronations and royal weddings) as well as a meeting place for guests of the King. The Silver Pagoda was the next building we were able to visit. The building got its name from the 5000 silver tiles covering the interior floor. It is currently used to house some national treasures including gold and jeweled Buddha statues. Most notable is a small 17th century baccarat crystal Buddha (the "Emerald Buddha" of Cambodia) and a near-life-size, Maitreya Buddha (Future Buddha) encrusted with 9,584 diamonds. We walked around the other structures including stupas for kings who have died. You can tell how much power a king had by the size of his stupa (I’m sure there is a joke in there somewhere). There was also a stupa for the current king’s aunt who died at age 4.
Next we were off to the National Museum. It was interesting to see many of the items that had been removed from the temples in Angkor City to be preserved. Here we were able to see the Leper King statue that once sat on the Terrace of the Leper King in Angkor
Thom. We also saw many other statues that were in the book that we had bought so it was very interesting.
After lunch our trip was going to take a turn from glitzy palaces and museums to the grim sites of the Khmer Rouge. Lead by Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge had power in Cambodia from 1975-1979 and during this time they overworked and starved the population, at the same time executing selected groups who had the potential to undermine the new state. In total, up to 3,000,000 people died.
During the Khmer Rouge reign all schools were closed and some turned into prisons. In Phnom Penh, one of these schools has now been turned into the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and during the occupation was known as S-21. Among visiting the prison cells and seeing some devices used for torture, there are many rooms filled with pictures of the victims. Many have pictures of them alive and then after they were killed. They were required to take death photos to prove the prisoners had not escaped.
We then drove out to the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center or better known as the “Killing Fields”.
Each day a new color
The Royal Palace staff have a different colored uniform for each day of the week.
Prisoners and their entire families were brought here and killed. They were then buried in mass graves. This is one location where pits have been dug up and the bones put into a glass stupa. It is estimated that 20,000 people including children were murdered in this location.
After decompressing from the afternoon we went back out to Malis for dinner. We had our guide make reservations for us so we wouldn’t get there and again be turned away. It was really delicious so I’m glad we made the effort to go back.
The next day we were able to sleep in a bit and had lunch at Le Lotus Blanc which is the restaurant at the Pour un Sourire d’Enfant school in Phnom Penh. The school works to support underprivileged children who work and live in the streets and around the Stung Meanchey garbage dump in Phnom Penh. The students run the restaurant along with their instructors to practice for jobs they will have once they graduate. We were given a tour of the school by an accounting student and then went to their boutique to look at products made by the students.
not sure which one though as they all look alike in our pictures.
To the airport we go. Next stop, Hanoi.
There are more photos below