Phnom Penh has grown on me

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June 6th 2011
Published: June 10th 2011EDIT THIS ENTRY

My final full day in Phnom Penh has been a lovely day. I think to totally get this city, you need to walk around on it's streets a bit. The past two days I've been doing this and it's been a lovely time.

Today I set out early to go to the Royal Palace which also houses the silver pagoda. The Royal Palace is only a few blocks away from where I'm staying, so within 20-25 minutes (I went the long way around the palace to find the entrance) I was inside the beautifully green manicured gardens of the palace.

There is a number of different buildings and pagoda within the grounds. They spread out on one side with manicured lawns and paths between these beautifully built and decorated buildings and on the other side where the silver pagoda is, they have potted plants on concrete between the buildings.

The first building I walked into had murals on the ceilings and statues down the back. You are not allowed to take pictures inside the buildings but can around the grounds.

The silver pagoda is called this because of it's silver tiled floor. To preserve the silver tiles they have put down a massive carpet rug for people to walk on which is a little bit of a shame as you can only see the silver tiles right around the edge of this. But I understand why they have done this.

The silver pagoda is filled with Bhudda statues including one that is gold and decorated with over 2000 diamonds (it's remarkable!). One of the final cases you see as you walk out of the pagoda is filled with Bhuddas of the same size and there are so many of them in a row it's insane!

There's a little temple on a mound beside the pagoda which is very pretty and surrounded by greenery. The stairs from the back of the temple make you feel like you're walking up a secret set of stairs. This was my favourite part of the Royal Palace.

The National Museum is definitely something to see. Take a fair few USD$1 bills with you as all through the museum there are women handing out flowers to pay tribute to Bhudda. I didn't have any USD$1 to put in the trays to offer to Bhudda as I put the flowers into the pots provided, but they didn't really seem to mind. But they were handing these out to everyone that walked by and asking them to honour Bhudda.

The number of part and full statues they have collected from around Cambodia and sometimes from collections outside the country is remarkable. It really does show how far back Cambodia goes and it brought home for me the reality that Cambodia was once a very prosperous and rich country in comparison to its neighbours, however now is much poorer due to recent historic events.

Outside the National Gallery I had a rather funny moment with a young boy who was trying to sell me water. As they usually do, they ask where you're from. "I'm from Australia" I tell him. He instantly goes "G'day mate" in a very thick Australian accent. I laugh at this because even tuk-tuk drivers have done this to me throughout my trip. He then follows up with "A dingo stole my baby" which made me laugh so much I was still laughing by the time I entered the first part of the exhibition.

After the National Gallery I made my way towards the waterfront. I ended up walking past a store I had read about in Lonely Planet called Colours of Cambodia. It's a fair trade store and they also offer what they call "seeing hands" massage by blind people. The massage itself only cost USD$7 (I gave him a $3 tip) and he was great. I had put my back slightly out at some stage in the past few days and he managed to free it up a bit, and then during the stretching/manipulating exercises at the end, put it back in.

I looked around the shop for a little bit and ended up buying a silk bag for my sister, silk scarves for my mum and two nieces and a silk scarf each for the four ladies at work. They're bit more expensive than the markets, but they're great quality scarves and it goes to a good cause.

The day ends with the first lot of rain since I've been in Phnom Penh. It's probably the biggest downpour I've had since being in Cambodia. Considering it's their rainy season, I was expecting more monsoonal rain in the afternoons but it hasn't happened.

I leave Phnom Penh tomorrow on a seven hour bus ride to Kratie. After a shaky start in Phnom Penh, I'm glad I got out today


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