Silver Pagoda

Within the walls of the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh is a temple commonly called the Silver Pagoda. It's properly known as Wat Preah Keo Morokot, or Temple of the Emerald Buddha. The common name comes from the thousands of solid silver tiles, each weighing more than a kilogram (2.2 pounds) and etched with a sort of fleur de lis pattern that cover the floor of the Pagoda. Most of the floor is covered with carpets, and the little bit of tiles that is exposed isn't polished, it's rather dull, so don't expect a gleaming silver interior.

The vihara (chapel), with its engraved silver floor and green Buddha, sits in the center of a large paved courtyard. The courtyard is enclosed by a gallery completely covered with murals depicting the Hindu epic tale of the Ramayana (pictured at the top of the page). If this all sounds rather familiar, it should. Phnom Penh's royal temple is loosely modeled on Bangkok's Temple of the Emerald Buddha.

Ancillary buildings and chapels within the Silver Pagoda

Within the courtyard, several other small structures surround the chapel. These include a tall slender Mondop, a sort of library for storing Buddhist scriptures written on palm leaves. The most noticeable structure is a covered equestrian statue standing directly in front of the Pagoda. It was a gift to King Norodom from Napoleon, and originally depicted the emperor himself, but the head was later changed to a likeness of King Norodom. Further to the south in the courtyard is a small pavilion housing a large Buddha footprint painted silver. Next to this is a man-made mound with some "cave" altars, another Buddha footprint and topped with a slender chapel similar to the library.

Also dotted around the courtyard are several gray chedi holding the ashes of former kings and queens. Although painted a uniform gray color, the chedi are intricately carved, looking a little like giant cake decorations made from sugar. Behind the chapel is a model of the Angkor Wat temple.

The Pagoda chapel itself is in part a museum as much as a place of worship. It was built in 1962 to replace a wooden structure constructed in 1902. Display cases line each side of the hall, and are filled with royal mementos such as emerald and diamond studded cigarette boxes, theatrical masks and Buddha images. The green baccarat crystal Buddha sits on a high altar of gold leaf stenciled on a green background.

You must remove your shoes before entering the Silver Pagoda, and no photography is allowed inside the building.

The entrance to the Silver Pagoda is through the Royal Palace and the entry fee for the palace includes access to the Pagoda. The exit from the temple and the palace complex is to the south of the Silver Pagoda.

Between the exit of the Silver Pagoda and the palace complex exit is a series of small shops and exhibition spaces, displaying such items as coronation photos, royal table items, etc.