One of the major attractions when you’re visiting Phnom Penh, very close to the Cambodian Royal Palace, is the National Museum of Cambodia. Housed in a lovely open Cambodian style structure, the museum hosts a number of exhibitions surrounding the topics of Khmer culture :
The National Museum of Cambodia houses one of the world’s greatest collections of Khmer cultural material including sculpture, ceramics and ethnographic objects from the prehistoric, pre-Angkorian, Angkorian and post-Angkorian periods.
The Museum promotes awareness, understanding and appreciation of Cambodia’s heritage through the presentation, conservation, safekeeping, interpretation and acquisition of Cambodian cultural material. It aims to educate and inspire its visitors.
It’s interesting that the separation into periods follows the very dominant Angkor period (with pre-in-post titles). Naturally, the museum also suffered from the horrors of modern Cambodia :
The turmoil of recent decades has devastated all aspects of Cambodian life including the cultural realm. During the years of Khmer Rouge control the Museum, along with the rest of Phnom Penh, was evacuated and abandoned. The Museum suffered from neglect during this time and after the liberation of Phnom Penh on 7 January 1979 it was found in disrepair, its roof rotten, collection in disarray and garden overgrown. The Museum was quickly tidied up and reopened to the public on 13 April 1979. Tragically, however, many of the Museum’s employees had lost their lives during the Khmer Rouge regime. The resulting loss of expertise, combined with the deterioration of the Museum building and its collection, have made rehabilitation of the Museum a daunting task.
Which I would say is a generally good description of the problem faced by most of the attractions in Cambodia.
In most of my travels, I have so far relied on Lonely Planet as a source of info, but on this trip I was on a rush and was surprised to find just how good the Wikitravel pages are :
The National Museum of Cambodia, Street 13, Sangkat Chey Chumneas, Khan Daun Penh, Phnom Penh (opposite the Royal Palace), ☎ +818.104.22.1683, +855.12.621.522 (mobile) ([email protected], fax: +822.214.171.1243), 08:00-17:00 daily, last admission 16.30.
Contains an excellent collection of art from Cambodia’s "golden age" of Angkor, and a lovely courtyard at the center. A main attraction is the statue of King Jayavarman VII (1181-1219) in mediation pose; other exhibits worth seeing include graceful statues of Hindu gods, ancient stelae (tablets) inscribed in Sanskrit and Old Khmer, and artifacts from a prehistoric burial site. Unfortunately, no photos may be taken inside the museum, although photography is allowed in the central courtyard upon payment of a small fee (cameras: US$1, videocameras: US$3).
In the middle of the courtyard is the original statue of the "Leper King" (actually Yama, the Hindu god of death) from the Terrace of the Leper King in Angkor Archaeological Park. The pleasant little park in front of the Museum is the site of the annual Royal Ploughing Ceremony, at which the success or otherwise of the coming harvest is determined. $3
BTW – If you have the time, and would like to get more of the experience, it might be good to get a local tourguide (~3US$). If you’re with a good hotel, they might be able to offer you one, and there are a few choices at the entrance to the museum (talk to them before you book and pay to make sure they’re not just poorly rehearsed guides and of the required English skills).
The ticket & price :
Location (adopted from the official National Museum of Cambodia website):
Other links :
- Treasures of Khmer Culture-The National Museum of Cambodia