When visiting the Royal Palace, you may find that one or two of the royal buildings are either cordoned off or no longer on display. There’s still plenty to see, but if there’s something you’re particularly interested in then make sure to check with the guides at the entrance for the latest on any closures.
The Victory Gate
Entering the pristine outer gardens dotted with topiary trees takes you towards the Victory Gate, which opens onto Sothearos Boulevard and faces the entrance steps to the Throne Hall. This was traditionally only used by the king and queen, though it’s now used to admit visiting dignitaries. Just to the north of the gate, the Moonlight Pavilion (Preah Tineang Chan Chhaya) was built for twilight performances of classical Cambodian dance, as a dais for the king to address the crowds and as a venue for state and royal banquets.
The Throne Hall
The present Throne Hall (Preah Tineang Tevea Vinicchay) was inaugurated by King Bat Sisowath in 1919 as a faithful reproduction of Norodom’s wooden palace, demolished in 1915. As befits a building used for coronations and ceremonies, it’s the most impressive building in the royal compound, topped by a much-photographed four-faced tower. The roof has seven tiers (counted from the lowest level up to the base of the spire) tiled in orange, sapphire and green, representing, respectively, prosperity, nature and freedom. Golden nagas at the corners of each level protect against evil spirits.
The hall’s broad entrance staircase, its banisters formed by seven-headed nagas, leads up to a colonnaded veranda, each column of which is topped by a garuda with wings outstretched, appearing to support the overhanging roof. Peering into the Throne Room from the east door, you’ll find a ceiling painted with finely detailed scenes from the Reamker (see The Ramayana) in muted colours, and walls stencilled with pastel leaf motifs and images of celestial beings, hands together in sompeyar. Unfortunately, since access to the Throne Room is forbidden it is almost impossible to get a proper view of the two elaborate golden coronation thrones ahead. They occupy a dais in the centre of the hall, above which a nine-tiered white and gold parasol, symbolizing peacefulness, heaven and ambition, is suspended; two large garudas guard the thrones from their position on the ceiling.
At the rear of the hall is an area where the king holds audiences with visiting VIPs and where the busts of six royal ancestors are displayed. Anterooms off the hall are used for different purposes: there are separate bedrooms for the king and the queen, to be used during the seven nights after the coronation, during which the royal couple have to sleep apart; another room serves as the king’s prayer room; the last room is used to store the king’s ashes after his death, while his chedi is being built.
The Royal Waiting Room
The imposing Royal Waiting Room (Hor Samranphirum), to the north of the Throne Room, is used on coronation days, when king and queen mount ceremonial elephants from the platform attached to the east side of the building for the coronation procession. A room at ground level serves to store the royal musical instruments and coronation paraphernalia. The pavilion is currently home to a collection of artefacts gifted to the monarch by foreign heads of state.
The Royal Treasury
Just south of the Throne Hall is the Royal Treasury (Hor Samritvimean), also known as the ‘Bronze Palace’, which houses regalia vital to the coronation ceremony, including the Great Crown of Victory, the Sacred Sword and the Victory Spear.