Monday, August 01, 2016

Phnom Penh

Early in the morning of July 31st, we caught the express bus to Phnom Penh from Battambang of Cambodia. Upon arriving in Phnom Penh, we immediately rented a scooter and hotel room. The next morning, we were off to Customs to get the special permit required to bring our own Thai-registered motorcycle into Cambodia.

Customs sent us off to the Ministry of Tourism where they told us it could take 7 to 10 days to receive the permit! We looked very forlorn and said we wouldn't have any time left to explore the rest of beautiful Cambodia. After a huddle, the staff then indicated that they might be able to expedite the process and that we needed to type a letter to the Minister of Tourism with our request.

Using one of their computers and a sample letter, I typed the letter. They suggested a couple of changes, printed it, and said they would give it along with copies of our other pertinent papers to the higher-ups and try to put a rush on it.

Now the waiting game started. For the rest of the day, we visited the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda on the shores of the mighty Mekong. The Royal Palace complex is where the King and Queen reside but their living quarters and several pavillions are closed off to the public.

Building at Royal Palace complex

Stupa at Royal Palace complex

A building called the Silver Pagoda gets its name from the 5 tons of 5,000 silver floor tiles. Unfortunately all but a few of these ornate tiles were totally covered by rugs for protection from the many footsteps of tourists. In the center of the interior's large open space sits the 90-kg life-sized solid gold Buddha speckled with 9,584 diamonds, the largest being 26 carats. It was placed at ground level in a glassed cage but roped off to keep tourists back, making it difficult to see all the gems.

Competing for attention is the Emerald Buddha that sits high up so it cannot be seen very easily, though its stand is attractively gilded. Whether the Buddha is made of crystal or glass is in debate.

Photo taking was forbidden within.

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