Getting There - Aneel's Travelogue

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Royal Palace Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Saturday, 03 March 2007 8:00pm

We got the day off to an early start. Stopped at the Hotel Cambodiana for some pastries (tasty) and then visited the Royal Palace on our way back to the FCC.

Royal Palace

We got a guide at the Palace, which was mixed. Generally, he covered the sorts of things we could have read in the guidebook — though he was obsessed with numbers: there are "nine thousand eight hundred and something" Buddha sculputes in the Royal Palace complex. On the other hand, it was good to have structure to the visit and he mentioned things like the fact that the blue flag was flying over the Royal Residence meant that the King was actually there. I suspect that today was the closest I've ever come to a sitting monarch.

The architecture was quite impressive overall, with the characteristic finials and elaborate roof designs. We were told that the common colors were symbolic of the two major religions of Cambodia: white for Hinduism and yellow for Buddhism. My favorite building on the grounds was actually not Cambodian. It was the building donated by Napoleon III. Originally, it was built in Africa for the dedication of the Suez Canal, but it was moved (in pieces) to Cambodia during the French Colonial period as a gift to the Cambodian King. It had a lot of neat ironwork.

After a drink at the FCC, we headed towards the French Quarter. We finally hired the tuk tuk driver who's been after us the whole time, but he was disappointed that we only wanted to go across town, rather than to the Killing Fields. He dropped us off at the Knotted Gun Monument, which is sculpted from melted down weapons.

The plan was to visit a recommended Khmer restaurant nearby, but it turned out to be closed. The razor wire made it look like it wasn't just closed for lunch. We ended up having soup at a nearby place. My catfish soup was pretty tasty. Jessica's shrimp soup was very like a Thai soup. Jessica got to ask for the check in Khmer.

We didn't see a lot of the promised French colonial architecture, so we skipped part of the walking tour and headed to Wat Phnom, the temple on the hill where the city was founded. It had a gigantic stupa (mausoleum tower), and some neat sculptures.

Our goal on our way back was to find the boat docks where we could catch a boat up the Tonle River to Siem Riep. After passing a number of places marked as docks in the guidebook that seemed entirely devoted to cargo shipping, we finally found the place we were looking for... half a mile down the street from our hotel.

We bought tickets and retired to a nearby restaurant for some beers. Tiger again, but it seemed a bit thinner than at the FCC. Not necessarily a bad thing, since we were thirsty.

The Khmer restaurant we chose for dinner was closed until the 10th for renovations, so we had some Italian food.

I was exhausted, so it was an early night. Works out well, sice we need to be at the docks at 6:30am tomorrow.