Thursday, April 21, 2011

Day 11: The bachelor, King of Kingdom of Cambodia

If anyone to ask, I would say Phnom Penh can be easily toured in only one day. A Cambodian friend, who is currently abroad studying, recommended activities (including places) to do while in Phnom Penh which can be completed in a day – he was right. Since I had two full days in Phnom Penh, so I decided to go slow with the sightseeing. Yesterday I was adapting to the dusty town, yet I had managed to experience the sound and smell of Phnom Penh city during the fair share of walking around town.

The day must start with a good breakfast, but I somehow slipped of the alarm. Like it or not, I had to miss my breakfast because my ride was already at the hotel doorstep before I even finish combing my hair. LOL..!!!

I hopped on Mr Vuf tuk tuk heading to the Grand Palace. Yesterday I heard that the King was in China and if I were lucky I could see the King (as he was supposed to return home today). This is my first time seeing a palace, where a King actually resides, that is located in the middle of city. The Kingdom of Cambodia Grand Palace is a significant structure right in the city centre, facing the main river. The entrance fee for foreign tourist is US$6.50 and since I wanted to learn about the history of the monarch and palace, I paid additional US$7 for an English guide. He was extremely jovial and funny – especially when he kept on saying if I am lucky enough, I can marry the King – he is still single.

At the age of 58, the present king of Cambodia is still a bachelor. He was a ballet dancer until he assumed the throne a few years back. Many royal items on the premise had to be changed to accommodate to his royal highness. The palace compound was huge, and I figured his royal highness must be very lonely staying in the big palace by his ownself. The guide had told me that his royal highness could not be that lonely since he has about 1,500 staffs working in the palace. The building of the palace is mainly influenced by the current Buddhist architecture, with a spice of Hinduism touch. Among the many building structure there is one building that was donated by French, and it was completed French architecture. I could see it clearly even though it was undergoing restoration works.

Within two hours of my journey inside the palace I learnt that Cambodia was a wealthy country, rich with gold. The royal gifts or items kept in the palace are mostly made from gold. There was even a pagoda known as Silver Pagoda – the temple floor was made out of pure silver tiles. At the end of the tour I asked the guide, who will assume the throne since the present King is not married? With full confident he answered, “His royal highness has a brother and he will assume the throne.”

I was getting hungry but it was nowhere near lunch time. Immediately after the palace, I head to the Russian Market. Apparently, Trip Advisor rated Russian Market visit better than going to Central Market. As I wanted to see the local in action, my trip to the Russian Market was the closest I could get to be with the local. If you are a shopper, this would be heaven. You can find almost everything here, from jewelries to clothes and from fresh ingredients to cooked dishes. If I were to go on a shopping spree, I would need more than 2 hours in this market. After roaming around to see all the dry stuffs, my feet brought me to the food section. Struggling with language, I was very happy to finally buy a local delicacy – banana wrapped with sticky rice and banana leave (similar to Malaysian pulut dakap but this is bigger). Outside the market there was a street vendor selling another local delicacy. This time I tried the thin pancake with crushed peanuts (tasted like apam balik but a crispy one). It was not easy to find a food shop around the market area, but there was small make-shift vendor selling drinks. I sat down at the place, sipping coconut juice, while waiting for my tuk tuk driver.

Cambodia is a country of flat land. So far I have not seen any elevated land (not even a small hill) ever since I came to Poi Pet. I am still at awe trying to imagine the looks of the country during the flood season. There is a man made hill in the city that also house Wat Phnom. It was not a high climb, but the fact that the temple was on an artificial elevated land somehow creates an excitement. On the way heading to the stairs, I saw a friendly elephant waiting for people to ride him. The elephant seemed very happy when people feed him bananas. You can pay the care taker of the elephant US$5 to take pictures while feeding the elephant. It was a good exercise for me climbing the stairs.
The day was supposed to end early – I wanted to do some packing for my early morning bus ride, the day after. At around 4pm, Yusuf, my guide from Siem Reap called me to ask if I wanted to join him and his small group for a dinner on boat. How could I say NO when my original intention was to have dinner on boat..?? I had joined a couple of ladies from Malaysia and it was a good time when all of us where talking in my native language.

My last tuk tuk ride cost me US$2, from the night market (last pit stop after dinner) to Circuit Hotel. I just had to quickly pack all the stuffs because I need to be in bed by 11pm. I can’t remember what time I actually doze off.

Click album cover below to see Day 11 pictures from the web album >>
Day 11 - Tour in Phnom Penh

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