The Royal Palace and National Museum

The lasts sites on our list to check off while in Phnom Penh were the National Museum and the Royal Palace.

After getting breakfast, we walked to the Royal Palace only to find out that it was closed until 2pm.  To kill some time, we stumbled upon the OunaLom Pagoda nearby and decided to check it out.

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The entrance to OunaLom Pagoda
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No chaos in the pagoda
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Inside the pagoda

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The gate from the inside with the river in the background
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An example of the fractal architecture in the pagoda

We still had an hour or so to kill before 2pm, so we found a cozy place near the river to hang out and have a couple of drinks before heading back to the National Museum.

The National Museum was really cool and houses one of the largest collections of Khmer art in the world.  Unfortunately, photography was forbidden, but we really enjoyed exploring the museum and looking at all of the sculptures and statues.

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The path leading to the museum

Once we were finished with the National Museum, we moved on to the Royal Palace which is right next door.  The Kings of Cambodia have resided in the Royal Palace since the 1860s (with the exception of the reign of the Khmer Rouge.)

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Jojo in front of the Throne Hall
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The gardens
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The Throne Hall from the front
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The Moonlight Pavillion (a stage for traditional Khmer dance)

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The steps of the Throne Hall
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Walking toward the Phochani Pavillion (a dance hall)

There were also some parts of the Royal Palace (mostly inside) where photography was forbidden, but we got some shots of the gorgeous architecture and surrounding gardens.

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More gardens

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Architectural detail
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A detailed gate that we loved!

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By the time we were finished, it was late afternoon as we made our way to find a place to have dinner.  We ended up choosing a restaurant called Friends, a training restaurant for former street kids to work in the hospitality industry.  Not only was it for a good cause, the food was excellent!  It was tapas-style and we got sundried tomato hummus wontons, zucchini cheddar fritters, and braised pork quesadillas.  Yum!

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Walking outside the gates of the Royal Palace
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Some people feeding pigeons in the gardens of the Royal Palace
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The streets of Phnom Penh
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Dalmations?

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The next morning Joe was hankering for french toast, so we wandered the streets until we found somewhere promising, a place called Jay’s Diner.  As the name would suggest, it was an American style diner with all of the breakfast options that can be hard to find in Cambodia, including good french toast!

After our bellies were full of sugary delicious breakfast foods, we discussed how we wanted to spend the day.  We had seen all of the major sites to be seen in Phnom Penh, but we had to stay an extra day because we were waiting to get our visas for Thailand.

You can’t get a visa on arrival in Thailand like you can in Laos and Cambodia, so we had to arrange it ahead of time.  When we first arrived in Phnom Penh, we asked our guesthouse if they could arrange it for us, but they said they needed proof of onward travel (meaning a flight ticket) out of Thailand, which we didn’t have.  They told us we could just book a flight and then not actually take it, but we weren’t exactly keen on spending a bunch of money on flight tickets that we didn’t actually need.

In hopes of getting a second opinion, we ventured over to Lucky! Lucky! Motorcycles Shop, where they offer a well-known and well-loved visa service to travelers and expats.  The conversation went sort of like this:

“Hello, we need two 60-day Thai tourist visas.”

“Okay, do you have flight ticket out of Thailand?”

“Uh, no.”

“…okay…do you have a bank account statement?”

“Yes…?”

“Are both of your names on it?”

“Oh…no.”

Sigh. “Okay, I can help you.”

I don’t know what kind of connections these people have or what kind of strings they are pulling, but we handed over our passports and $110 and were told to come back three days later to get our passports and visas.

So here we were, three days later waiting to pick up our passports, only we were told that they wouldn’t be ready until late afternoon.  So we had an entire day to kill with nothing particular to do and no particular desires.

Having been quite a while since the last time we had gone out drinking, lounging around sipping frozen cocktails was starting to sound pretty appealing while we walked through the scorching, smoggy streets of Phnom Penh.  So, we headed to a local bar/hostel called Top Banana that has a bar on the balcony and ordered ourselves some fruity deliciousness.  On the blackboard behind the bar was a giant scoreboard with 50 or 60 countries on it and a number next to each country.  Across the top said something like “Banana Bomb Challenge.”  Naturally, Australia was in first place with 200 and America (‘MURICA) was in second with 164.  A banana bomb is a shot of tequila, chased with a shot of banana liqueur dropped into a glass of red bull.  Nothing makes you want to purchase something you don’t actually want more than proving your country’s superiority in the ability to binge drink.   …’Murica’s score was higher before we left.

After working up an appetite at Top Banana, we headed to Cocina Cartel, a burrito restaurant with a menu and set-up eerily identical to Chipotle.  Joe has been complaining about wanting Chipotle for 2 months now, so we obviously jumped at the opportunity as soon as we found out about its existence.  The food was good, although they didn’t know how to properly wrap a burrito.  We forgave them, though.

At last it was finally time to pick up our passports.  As we walked to the motorcycle shop we braced ourselves for rejection or some other issue that would further stall us in getting our visas.  Fortunately, we were given our passports back with two 60 day Thai visas, no questions asked!

We called it an early night in preparation for our 7am pick up to Kampot.  We loved Phnom Penh in all its gritty goodness.

2/26

Breakfast: $8.50

Water: $0.50

Beers: $5

National Museum: $10

Royal Palace: $13

Friends: $19.50

Water: $0.50

Accommodation: $16

2/26 Total Spent: $73 USD

2/27

Jay’s Diner: $8.50

Top Banana: $15.50

Cocina Cartel: $16

Waters: $1

Accommodation: $16

2/27 Total Spent: $57 USD