Day 60: Phnom Penh Royal Palace
Claire: Feeling fully recharged after yesterday's rest I was super itchy to explore the city. We began todays route at the Independence Monument, just a couple of mins walk from our hotel, which celebrates the nations independence from France in the 50s.
Passing lots of local life on the backstreets, we get a real sense of Khmer life in Phnom Penh. We also notice there's lots of flashy cars here too which has been a rare sight in SE Asia! Range Rovers / Porsches / Bentleys.
As we get to the gates of the Royal Palace, our main destination for the day, we realise it's just closed for lunch!!!!!! At 11:30... until 2pm!! Lunchtime closings seem to be an ongoing joke in our travels. We have to laugh. So instead we strolled to the riverside, which is the junction of two rivers — the mighty Mekong and Tonle Sap. There's a total mix of buildings on the front, from colonial, to temples, to modern developments.
The area running next to the riverside is also known as Downtown and there seems to be hundreds of cheap bars and hostels here. We find it a bit seedy as we see lots of single old white men in bars surrounded by several young girls. Urgh.
We make our way back towards the palace and stop for lunch at The Shop 240, which is on street 240 — a much lovelier area with shops that champion fair trade textiles and local craftsmanship.
Arriving at the Royal Palace for opening time we got to explore the beautiful grounds and ornate buildings with a relatively small amount of other tourists which was blissful. Unfortunately we weren't allowed in many of the buildings which was a bit of a shame (considering the $10 entrance fee) but we enjoyed our visit anyway! So many lovely patterns and detail.
Oh and we also got to see some monkeys in the palace!!
We head back out this evening to Bassac Lane, a trendy area just 5mins from us where we're spoilt for choice with restaurants and bars. We go for dumplings at Mama Wongs... and was not disappointed. Mmm!!!
Gav's day sixty takeaway
- We went to some palace thing, not sure what it was or who lives there. But I paid my money to the government like a good tourist and got to wander round a few tidy looking courtyards without actually being allowed into any of the buildings. There's not much to look at or do – although we were offered tour guides, we quickly dismissed this option on the assumption they'd just take our money. Despite the lack of excitement from the surroundings, there were 2 personal highlights:
- 1. Most people weren't overly interested in the 3 monkeys chilling in the shade, but Gav decided it'd be a good idea to kneel down in front of one to get a good video. Unfazed by my presence, the monkey flinched but mainly continued to sit... Then he stared at me. Only for a split second, but it was a glare. I continued to film. Then came the stare + silent hiss. Then his mate in the back row joined in (see photo above, this viscous looking gesture was directed straight at me). And then, in no time, the first one launched onto all fours and came at me. I stood, turned and put the camera away before he could grab at me and ghosted away, but he or she wasn't happy and although no physical contact was made, I now knew the score. It seems I quite like pissing the animals off in this part of the world.
- 2. The personal highlight of any such day out is of course the 'busload of apples', by which I mean the large groups of people who are often from a certain part of the world, that walk around with an iPhone or still worse, iPad. Held out in front of their face, lips pursed and snapping (on average) around a million photos of themselves. I even chuckled to myself at one point as I dodged 7 outstretched arms along a tight walkway whilst literally laughing at each one of these buffoons without any of them realising. I can't wait for VR to evolve to the point where people don't even need to visit a place to get a selfie. They can permanently fester in some kind of futuristic capsule that allows you to self indulge in a private photoshoot that instantly filters and posts their creations to their adoring followers... All 6 of them.
- I like Phnom Penh though.