We’re in Phnom Penh for a day and a half, so started off with a tour around the Royal Palace.
The former King of Cambodia (then known as the King-Father) died just a few days ago, so his portrait is up everywhere. He was extremely popular and beloved. Norodom Sihanouk became King at age 19 in 1941, until 1955 and then from 1993 to 2004. He was the great grandson of King Norodom, the King from 1860 to 1904 – regarded as the first modern Khmer King. By becoming a French protectorate he got Cambodia out from under the rule of Vietnam and Siam. King Norodom had 62 sons and daughters!
Personally I find the record of Norodom Sihanouk rather blemished. He was not just King, but at various times also President and Prime Minister and a puppet head of state for the Khmer Rouge. He was the effective ruler from 1953 to 1970 when the National Assembly voted to depose him. He then began his support of the Khmer Rouge. Many joined the Khmer Rouge to support him, not because they were communists. He had no real power during the Pol Pot regime, but he did help bring it about. Despite that, very few Cambodians blame him in any way.
Part of the Palace.
A memorial for one of the former Kings.
The current King, Norodom Sihamoni, is 59 but looks around 40. He is also very popular. Interestingly it appears he is gay, not that they state that outright. His late father said he “loves women as his sisters” and he is a bachelor and ballet dance teacher! Quite progressive for them to elect him King.
They have 600 metres of this mural. Faded but fascinating.
Generally one could not go into the Palace, or if you could not take photos. In one room is a Buddha made of 70 kgs of gold, and huge diamonds also. I was amused that the lock on his display case was a $2 small padlock.
The original King Norodom.