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 exhibits include the pre-Angkorian periods of Funan and Chenla; the great Khmer kings; Angkor Wat; Angkor Thom; and the inscriptions.
Exhibits include touch-screen videos, epic commentary and the chance to experience a panoramic sunrise at Angkor Wat. Although there appears to be less sculpture on display than in the National Museum in Phnom Penh, the presentation of the artefacts here is cutting edge.
Some of the standout pieces in the collection include a late-12th-/early-13th-century seated Buddha sheltered by a naga (mythical serpent-being); a 7th-century standing Vishnu from Sambor Prei Kuk in Kompong Thom; and a stunning 10th-century lintel from the beautiful temple of Banteay Srei.
As the museum is entirely air-conditioned, plan a visit during the middle of the day to avoid the sweltering midday temperatures at the temples of Angkor. Audio tours are available for US$5 and are useful for those who want a more comprehensive understanding of the exhibits on display. Wheelchairs are available free of charge for visitors with mobility impairment.
Allow about two hours to visit the museum in depth and to stop by the shop and small cafe at the end of your visit.