Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Unlocking the Silver Pagoda

Unlocking the Silver Pagoda

Unlocking the Silver Pagoda

Yes the Silver Pagoda's doors may be open but they are only ajar to let a select

few tread its solid silver tiles and peruse its sparsely ornate grounds that are

south of the Royal Palace.

Restoration of the main buildings has been taking place since early this year, and,

officially,the pagoda is closed to all but visiting dignitaries and tourists from

abroad.

The pagoda and the library,which are the first buildings one sees on entry,will probably

be finished by mid-September,according to the Phnom Penh Conservation Office.

Roughly 60 Khmers, half of whom are from the private sector, have been hired to restore

the outside buildings. This is being funded by the government.

A mural depicting a Khmer version of the Hindu religious epic the Ramayana, that

adorns the outer gallery is the most difficult part to restore to its former glory.

Each year, since 1985,a team of Polish specialists from the Enterprises of the State

for the Conservation of Historical Monuments in Poland spend several months restoring

the painting. The eighth phase of this project will begin on September 26.

Chey Samsavan, the Chief of the Polish-Cambodian mission for the painting, said that

if the government can afford the up-keep, the scheme could be finished in three more

years.

The Silver Pagoda's design has Thai overtones. And indeed it was inspired by Wat

Phra Keo in Bangkok.

Inside its cool chamber the lightly etched tiles underfoot remind one how this sort

of extravagance is suitably fit for Royalty. Since Prince Norodom Sihanouk used to

use it privately for his religious meditations, the feeling of grandeur is assured.

From the emerald Buddha that sits high on a gilt pedestal to the standing one that

is 90 kilos of gold (encrusted with enough diamonds to get a third world country

on its feet) one feels thankful that the KR left 40 percent of the Pagoda's contents

intact otherwise the world would have been deprived seeing the impressive marvels

of the Khmer past.

When the monument will be open to the general public the Ministry of Culture is not

prepared to say; but Chey seems to think that at the completion of the constitution

the new government shall have a chance to consider opening it up.

Before the Prince's return the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda were considered

a museum that was widely accessible, but sincethe Prince's return to his residency

there is a security factor delaying or cancelling the decision to open up the grounds

fully.

Until the gates are open to all and sundry the official procedure is to apply for

permission through the Government Tourist Office. They will then get it approved

by the Ministry of Culture and

Fine Arts.

This takes some time so it is best to apply one day before the proposed visit. The

Silver Pagoda is open daily except Mondays from 7:30-11 a.m. and 2-5 p.m. . Admission

costs U.S. $2 plus an additional $2 or $5 for your still or video cameras respectively.

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