This was my third visit to the Royal Palace. It is situated on the riverfront near the large pagoda. The two previous times I’ve been here, there was a community of homeless people living almost at the front gate. Departing the vehicle, you have to make your way past several beggars, which is quite distressing. Landmines have rendered many, many people unable to work in this country due to loss of limbs and they are unable to receive any welfare payments from the government, so begging is an easy option. I always feel heartless when I ignore them, but I prefer to give mon ey to the disabled who work for it in Cambodia, such as the members of the landmine victims’ bands who often play music in tourist locations.
The Royal Palace is quite spectacular. The architecture is beautiful in the classic Cambodian style, with striking yellow ceramic roof tiles denoting that many of them are Buddhist temples. The Silver Pagoda has a floor tiled entirely with large solid silver tiles, and the statues of Buddha contain large quantities of gold. Our guide, Daream, was quite proud of the buildings and the history, but rather scathing of the current king, who seems to spend more time out of Cambodia than in it.
What I find a little distasteful about the Royal Palace, is that its contents are worth a very large amount of money and this wealth is flaunted to visitors, yet right outside the front gate are beggars and homeless people. Cambodia is a very poor country and many people live in poverty. I can’t help feeling that if a proportion of the wealth contained in the Royal Palace was to be shared with the people of Cambodia, many people would be able to live more comfortably.