The Angkor National Museum is located in Siem Reap and is made up of eight separate galleries. The galleries are connected by a vaulted corridor with a series of fountains and lined with many of the Angkorian era limestone lion and demon heads that you will see missing from the statues around the temples inside the archaeological park.
After an explanatory and extremely educational movie screening called Story Behind the Legend, you’re directed through a series of walkways toward the galleries.
Listed below is a brief guide to each of the eight galleries.
Gallery 1: 1,000 Buddha Images
This is the only gallery in the museum that’s just one large room as opposed to series of alcoves that the other galleries are contained in. It is certainly a striking and incredible sight to be in the presence all these beautifully carved Buddha statues all at once.
Hundreds of small and miniature Buddha statues, created in copious styles and various materials such metals, jewels and wood, all individually illuminated, line the walls and displays in this glorious gallery.
The Buddha’s are arranged and identified according to the period they were made and where they were discovered. In the centre there is a display of life-size and larger Buddha carvings and statues. The display includes Buddhas from Banteay Kdei, Bayon, Angkor Wat and Preah Vihear.
Gallery 2: Pre-Angkor Period: Khmer Civilisation
This gallery and all the subsequent ones combine murals with written explanations in addition to short movies through corridors and alcoves explaining the history of Angkor in its entirety. The styles of figurines precede the trademark Angkor style, and there is an extensive collection of lingas, lintels and colonnades.
Gallery 3: Religion and Beliefs
This gallery explains several of the most important Hindu and Buddhist religious precepts and customs depicted on Angkorian temples. The most famous of these being the Churning of the Sea of Milk carved into the back wall of Angkor Wat. Carvings of Buddhist and Hindu religious figures and deities are located here as well.
Gallery 4: The Great Khmer Kings
The Great Khmer Kings gallery focuses on many of the kings that were responsible for the planning and construction of Angkor’s greatest buildings including King Jayavarman II, Yasovarman I, Soryavarman II and Jayavarman VII. Figures of the kings and relics from the temples they had commissioned are found here.
Gallery 5: Angkor Wat
There is a large photographic gallery inside this part of the museum. It showcases a number of stunning, panoramic images of the temple which also includes explanations about its construction. In this gallery, there are also many restored figures from the temple itself as well as some post-Angkorian wooden statues that were used for worship at the temple up until 300-400 years ago.
Gallery 6: Angkor Thom
In this gallery you will find many of the recovered artefacts from Angkor Thom, in addition, the gallery includes the history of the artefacts from the huge irrigation projects commissioned by the king Jayavarman VII who built Angkor Thom with his smiling face looking out from every tower.
Gallery 7: Story From Stones
This gallery is one of the most interesting for discovering less well known information on the Angkor Empire. There is a large collection of stone pallets which have inscriptions engraved upon them in ancient Khmer and Sanskrit. The writing on each slate is explained on information boards below. The detailed listings engraved on them include, for example, the proposal for the construction of a new hospital, a list of slave names, compromises for land disputes and adulations of kings and gods.
Gallery 8: Ancient Costume
From Apsaras and kings to princesses and warriors, this gallery contains the information on the distinct fashions and styles as they evolved throughout Angkor history. Here you will also find a collection of ancient jewellery and headdresses from the Angkor era.
It’s $12 for foreigners to enter the museum and $3 for Cambodians, plus another $3 for an educational headset available in Khmer, English, French, German, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and Thai languages. If you log onto the website of the museum you can pre-order tickets at a slightly lower rate.
The Angkor National Museum is on the road to Angkor and is open daily from 8:30 am and closes 6:30 pm although we would recommend entering the museum no later than 4 pm as it takes a minimum of 2 hours to fully appreciate the museum and all of the galleries.