Looming large on the road to Angkor is the Angkor National Museum, a state-of-the-art showpiece on the Khmer civilisation and the majesty of Angkor. Displays are themed by era, religion and royalty as visitors move through the impressive galleries.
After a short presentation, visitors enter the Zen-like ‘Gallery of a Thousand Buddhas’, which has a fine collection of images. Other collections include the pre-Angkorian periods of Funan and Chenla, the great Khmer kings, Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and the inscriptions.
Presentations include touch-screen video, epic commentary and the chance to experience a panoramic sunrise at Angkor Wat, but for all the technology there seems less sculpture on display than in the National Museum in Phnom Penh. However, it remains a very useful experience for first-time visitors to put the story of Angkor and the Khmer empire in context before exploring the temples. The US$12 admission fee is a little high, given that US$20 buys admission to all the temples at Angkor. Visitors also have to pay a US$2 camera fee, but can’t snap everywhere, and an audio tour is available for US$3. Attached to the museum is a ‘Cultural Mall’, lined with shops, galleries and cafes, but this hasn’t really taken off and sees few visitors.