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Angkor National Museum, Siem Reap

An ambitious attempt seeks to shed some light on the mysteries of ancient Khmer civilization.
968 Vithei Charles de Gaulle, Siem Reap, Cambodia

The Overview

Angkor Wat might inspire awe among most travelers, but it offers few ready answers to questions shrouding the mighty empire that built it. For those curious to learn more, head over to the Angkor National Museum, a privately run US$15 million complex that opened in November last year. Located near the Grand Hotel d’Angkor, it’s hard to miss: a sprawling white edifice with decorative pools and stupas, and slightly gaudy pink sandstone walls. Covering 20,000 square meters, the museums eight galleries provide a chronological account of Khmer civilization from the pre-Angkor period (before the 9th century) to the golden age of the Angkor with artifacts from the National Museum in Phnom Penh and the Conservation d’Angkor, a storage facility for a massive collection that is still off-limits to the public. The museum isn’t without some controversy: skeptics deride the Cultural Mall attached to the museum, and some have grumbled about its Thai origins (a Bangkok-based company is behind the museum). Despite the complaints, the museum is an excellent introduction to the mysterious temple complex that lies a few kilometers away.

What to See
One Thousand Buddha Images Gallery
Wood, stone, silver and bronze Buddha statues and other relics are displayed in hundreds of small niches in this large, dark room. Train your eyes on the lower niches: they contain real antiquities—the oldest dates back to the 6th century while some of the top niches house less-interesting 20th century depictions. In the center of the room are the rarest Buddha images, including a 9th-century sandstone statue of a prostrate Bodhisattva from Phnom Da. The gallery underscores how Hinduism and Buddhism have commingled in this part of the world.

Gallery B, Religions and Beliefs
This space is devoted to the religions and beliefs that molded the great Khmer civilization. Among the highlights are carvings from Banteay Srey, a late 10th century temple located 38 kilometers from Siem Reap that’s renowned for the delicate beauty of its pink sandstone carvings.

Gallery D, Angkor Wat
It’s hard not to marvel over how the magnificent temples of the UNSECO World Heritage Site were built. With a detailed model of Angkor Wat, one of the most famous structures, this gallery goes a long way towards explaining how the “temple-mountain” dedicated to the Hindu got, Vishnu, was erected. Don’t miss the simulation of the equinox sunrise over the model, which underscores the significance of astronomy in the complex’s layout.

968 Vithei Charles de Gaulle,
Siem Reap, Cambodia

+855 6396 6601




Published on Aug 28, 2009

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