Royal Palace, Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh's Royal Palace may be small scale compared to neighbor Bangkok's Grand counterpart, but it is also devoid of the masses that beseige the latter attraction. Aside from Angkor Wat, it is Cambodia's premier architectural masterpiece to be lingered over.
Fondest memory: There are those that take every precaution and still get stomach ailments when traveling in third world countries. They have some crazy idea that food prepared in more upscale restaurants is safer. This is certainly not always the case and, worse yet, leads them to miss out on some of the best experiences with regard to the local culture. And they sometimes miss out on some good food to boot.
Cambodia as a rule was not a culinary delight and its capital of Phnom Penh was disappointing as big Asian cities go, but with some diligent investigation, I found some interesting foods though I got more than my fair share of belly aches and worse en route. I guess finishing off what tasted like fermented fish even though it went well with fried plantains was not my best tactical maneuver. That said, I would not have forgone ice if it meant missing out on the fruit shake girl. (continued below in Fondest Memory)
Favorite thing: While you are on the Royal Palace grounds you should catch a performance of the Royal Dancers. They perform on a stage near the Chan Chaya Pavilion. They were so cute and you could see the concentration on their faces even as they smiled through the routine.
Visit the Royal Palace. Walk along the River front. Go out at night (but see the danger section).
Fondest memory: The simplicity, together with the stoicism of the Cambodian people, who have had to endure extreme suffering, makes up a special atmosphere. It still is an unspoiled area, but not for long. Go there while it still is prestine.
The architecture of the palace is very known, so here is a beautiful tree to be found in the Royal Garden.
When visiting Palaces, museums, temples in Cambodia, remember to dress appropriately! You can wear a T-shirt accompanied by a pair of long pants or three-quarter Bermudas.
The ticket office rents T-shirts for US$1 each but they don't rent pants. I wore shorts that day and they asked me to pull it down until it covered my knees (cheers to Elastic waist straps!).
P.S you also need to pay a camera fee. You can get by this by keeping your camera inside your day pack. Snap pictures secretly and do it fast!
The royal palace allows for a nice walk in a quiet , lush and rich environment. The contrast with the bustling streets outside its walls is exactly what is needed to understand the growing discontent by the people against royalty and the colonialists, which led to the eventual uprisings and takeover by the Khmer Rouge.
The palace pales in comparison and history with the one in Bangkok, and shows the futile attempt by the Sihanouk family to have as much prestige as the powerful Thai and Vietnamese neighbours. Nevertheless, the king retains great respect in the heart of the Cambodians.
So a visit to Phnom Penh should definitely include the palace to understand the royal component of the complex political jigsaw this country is.
City center, not far from the river (can be seen on my Phnom Penh page aerial photo)