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Angkor National Museum, Cambodia.

Entrance Angkor National Museum.

Angkor National Museum, Cambodia.

January 2020.

If you’re coming to Siem Reap to see the world famous Angkor Temples, there really is only one place that offers visitors an authentic window into the history and culture of The Khmer Empire. Hence Sladja and I cleared an afternoon and headed off to Angkor National Museum, a state-of-the-art exhibition housed in a mammoth building on Charles De Gaulle Road.

Visit Angkor National Museum.

Angkor National Museum.

Opened in 2007, the museum has long been shrouded in controversy. Firstly, it is not state owned, as you would perhaps expect from a so-called National Museum. Rather, a private Thai company launched the place, a situation that doesn’t sit well with many Cambodians. Especially when one takes into consideration the long-running Preah Vihear Temples Dispute between Cambodia and Thailand.

Angkor National Museum.

Moreover, many complain that the museum is a shameless moneymaking enterprise that gives little back to the temples themselves. Indeed, entry at $12 per person seemed a little steep to us. No, that doesn’t include the audio guide headset, priced at an additional $3 each. And yeah, a large section of the space goes to the fancy museum shop and its high end souvenirs and collectibles.

Angkor National Museum, Cambodia.

Angkor National Museum.

Angkor National Museum.

Nevertheless, we found the museum pleasingly modern, spacious, cool and well crafted, albeit a little minimalistic. Eight large galleries stretch out across two floors, with sections on The Great Angkor Kings, Religions & Beliefs and Ancient Costumes, among others.

1000 Buddha Gallery.

1000 Buddha Gallery Angkor National Museum.

1000 Buddha Gallery.

The first part was almost certainly the most impressive. Lo and behold the 1000 Buddha Gallery, a striking display of Buddha figurines. Some of the pieces came directly from the ruins of The Angkor Temples, including Banteay Kdei, Bayon Temple and Angkor Wat. The sight of all the buddhas as you enter the room is a really breathtaking moment.

As visually pleasing as the gallery is, critics are keen to point out that actual Buddha relics are in the minority. In fact, the bulk of the collection features figurines made in the 20th century based on historical designs. Still, I appreciated the information boards detailing the different Buddha hand gestures.

Buddha Gallery Angkor National Museum.

1000 Buddha Gallery.

The above photo, for example, shows the Buddha in a sitting posture with his left hand resting on his lap. His right hand hanging over his right knee. This is called Bhumispharsa Mudra, which symbolises the Buddha’s enlightenment under the bodhi tree when he summoned the Earth goddess Sthavara.

Angkor National Museum, Cambodia.

Angkor National Museum Siem Reap Cambodia.

Angkor National Museum.

From the buddha gallery we soon found ourselves swallowed up in the alcoves of the main exhibits. History buffs could literally spend all day picking their way through the nitty gritty of The pre-Angkorian years (1st-8th centuries), The Angkorian Period (9th-13th centuries) and the Post Angkorian Era (14th to 20th centuries).

Ancient Phnom Da Statues Cambodia.

Pre-Angkorian sculptures of Vishnu.

For us, it was enough to simply hone in on specific relics that caught our eye, such as these 6th century Lord Vishnu sculptures. They showcase the so-called Phnom Da Style, influenced by both Indian and Greek art.

11th century sandstone lintel Cambodia.

An 11th century sandstone lintel.

Similarly, this 11th century narrative sandstone lintel drew us in. The scene depicts Trimurti, the three supreme gods, surrounded by various Hindu gods. Of the three, Brahma is the creator and Shiva (seated on the bull) is the destroyer of evil and ignorance. Finally, Vishnu is the preserver. Archaeologists discovered the lintel in an area of land near Preah Khan Temple.

What to See and Do Siem Reap.

Batik Art Gallery Siem Reap.

Batik Art Gallery.

However, the museum isn’t all sculptures, statues and glass cases. There are also little cinema stations and beautiful artwork throughout, including a gallery showcasing Batik works from Indonesia. Yes, they’re for sale. No, they’re not cheap.

Angkor National Museum Siem Reap.

Angkor National Museum.

If none of the above fails to impress, there’s also some good old fashioned tomfoolery on hand to lighten the mood. The scene I gatecrashed depicts a legendary story of Hindu mythology, Samudra Manthan (Churning of the Cosmic Ocean of Milk).

Angkor National Museum.

Angkor National Museum.

Overall, I’d say the museum is worth at least an hour of your time. Ideally, you’d head here prior to adventuring around the temples themselves. For additional resources, head to the official website. Or check out this cool blog post from Alex in Wanderland.

Ancient Buddha sculpture Cambodia.

Angkor National Museum.

Siem Reap isn’t just about The Angkor Temples. Check out my guide on What to See and Do in Siem Reap.

You can also read my exhaustive overview of Where to Eat and Drink Siem Reap.

Looking for a roof over your head? Check out my articles on Where to Stay in Siem Reap.

I’ve been living, working and traveling all over the world since 2001. So why not check out my huge library of travel reports from over 30 countries.

Leighton Travels logo travel reports and short stories.


  • wetanddustyroads

    I agree, the 11th century sandstone lintel must be special to see – in such perfect condition after so many centuries. And I saw you were part of an exhibition for a short while … but I’m afraid to say, you’re not really blending in Leighton 😉.

    August 3, 2022 - 12:04 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Ha ha I’m just too modern right? 😉 Thanks for checking out this museum Corna, the perfect appetiser for some days touring the Angkor Temples.

      August 3, 2022 - 12:29 pm Reply
  • travelling_han

    I had no idea about the controversial background of ownership, but the museum looks great and I’ll definitely be visiting 🙂

    August 3, 2022 - 12:53 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Cheers Hannah, it’s the only show in town as far as Angkor temple museum space goes, so well worth the visit. Appreciate the feedback!

      August 3, 2022 - 12:57 pm Reply
  • kagould17

    It is nice that there is an interpretive museum available. Just too bad there could not have been a bit more cooperation between free enterprise and the state. Perhaps in time, all will be glad that this bit of history could be saved. Thanks for taking us there Leighton. Allan

    August 3, 2022 - 2:21 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      It’s still early days for the museum I guess, they still have time to evolve. Or maybe that’s just me being naive, ha. In any case it is certainly better than nothing and a good accompaniment to local temple hunting. Thanks for your visit Allan!

      August 3, 2022 - 2:54 pm Reply
  • Lyssy In The City

    Looks like a neat place to explore despite the controversy. The admission price does seem a little steep relatively, but worth it.

    August 3, 2022 - 3:53 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Yeah worth it I think, as it’s very much a “when in Rome” attraction. Thanks for reading Lyssy!

      August 3, 2022 - 4:14 pm Reply
  • Memo

    Always want to visit and spend more time after reading your museum posts. I’m afraid one hour would not be enough. Collections like these make me wonder about how they came into possession of the artifacts. Unfortunately, many items are simply stolen. Still, it was nice to see a professionally prepared display.

    August 3, 2022 - 4:19 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      It’s worth bearing in mind that they’ve had to share what treasures were available with the National Museum in Phnom Penh. This museum was worthwhile, but the one in the capital is better I’d say. Cheers Memo!

      August 3, 2022 - 4:28 pm Reply

    I’m in two minds as to whether you’ve sold this museum to me or not. But then it is as you say only an hour so if and when we’re passing the door…..

    August 3, 2022 - 5:09 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Not all the things you see while travelling can be mind-blowing I guess. Still, I didn’t want to leave this one out, even though we weren’t fully convinced. Will be interested to read about your perspective if you do make it there.

      August 3, 2022 - 6:38 pm Reply
  • Mike and Kellye Hefner

    It’s interesting that a Thai company owns this museum. Additionally, I (Kellye) can’t help but wonder how they acquired the exhibits. That said, it looks like a good museum – one that we would visit if we ever travel to Seim Reap. As ever, your posts are very enjoyable, Leighton!

    August 3, 2022 - 5:28 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Kellye, that’s a good question about ownership of the relics. I wonder if, perchance, some of the stuff was uncovered in the disputed Thai-Cambodian regions. Thanks as ever for keeping up with my Siem Reap adventures.

      August 3, 2022 - 6:41 pm Reply
  • grandmisadventures

    I can understand why the museum would be so controversial to so many. It would feel disingenuous to have a national museum privately owned by another country, especially one with such a complicated history and relationship as this one. But the thousand buddha’s would definitely be a stop you in your tracks with awe kind of moment. How did they figure out that not all of them were relics?

    August 3, 2022 - 8:36 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      I think they were purposefully bought in full knowledge that they were not relics. I guess they wanted a 1000 Buddha chamber, but that the few hundred or so actual treasures they had were not gonna cut it. To be fair, the replicas are very good, virtually indistinguishable from some of the real ones to the untrained eye. Thanks for reading Meg!

      August 3, 2022 - 9:46 pm Reply
  • Travels Through My Lens

    There are some exhibits that sound quite interesting, like the thousand buddhas, but the admission price is quite high. I like your cheeky tomfoolery!

    August 3, 2022 - 10:38 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Tricia, I think the 1000 Buddhas and the 11th century lintel were the stars of the show.

      August 3, 2022 - 11:01 pm Reply
  • salsaworldtraveler

    I like the look of this museum. It is a shame about the disputes between Thailand and Cambodia. I believe the picture you photo bombed😄 is Samudra Manthan (the churning of the cosmic ocean). There is a large sculpture of this scene as you enter the concourse at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok.

    August 3, 2022 - 10:42 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Wow excellent shout John, I am going to make a prompt edit to include this info, thank you very much.

      August 3, 2022 - 10:54 pm Reply
  • Little Miss Traveller

    Interesting to learn that there are s many relics on display here Leighton despite the conflict of interest between Cambodia and Thailand on ownership. Great post and photos.

    August 4, 2022 - 12:03 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Marion. Angkor National Museum certainly seems to split opinion. But despite not being bowled over by it, we definitely don’t regret going.

      August 4, 2022 - 12:07 am Reply
  • Rebecca

    Very interesting background with the Angkor National Museum (and yes, I agree with you that the $12 admission fee is steep!). And I had no idea that a museum like this existed, especially since it’s obviously overshadowed by the colossal Angkor Wat itself. Despite the controversies, it looks to be worth a pop inside, especially while in the area.

    August 4, 2022 - 5:30 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Maybe we just had very high expectations after shelling out $24 between us. But hey, no regrets! Thanks for keeping up Rebecca, now…. let the temple marathon begin!

      August 4, 2022 - 8:45 am Reply
  • Deepak Acharya

    This looks a like a lovely place to spend some good time 🙂

    August 4, 2022 - 12:00 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for your reading and your comment. Some of the pieces within the museum are really impressive.

      August 4, 2022 - 12:24 pm Reply
  • NortheastAllie

    The Buddha gallery in this museum looks really neat!

    August 4, 2022 - 11:31 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for stopping by Allie!

      August 4, 2022 - 11:57 pm Reply
  • Lookoom

    The museum was about to open when I visited Seam Reap, so I could only visit the National Museum in Phnom Penh. The need for a museum seems to me necessary to show the fragile works and avoid more thefts on the sites. Another advantage, it allows to spend a moment in the cool at the time of the strongest heat.

    August 5, 2022 - 12:23 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Oh yes, the air con! Perhaps keeping the museum cool is where the extra dollars go on the ticket price 😉 Thanks for dropping by.

      August 5, 2022 - 1:18 am Reply
  • WanderingCanadians

    It is weird that a national museum is privately owned and operated. Despite the steep price, I’m glad to hear that it was at least worthwhile to visit.

    August 5, 2022 - 7:10 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for stopping by!

      August 5, 2022 - 7:14 pm Reply
  • Juliet

    Leighton, I can’t tell you how grateful I am for your travels and willingness to share. I am in awe of your many experiences. Thank you!

    August 6, 2022 - 2:42 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Juliet, I’m glad you enjoy my articles!

      August 6, 2022 - 2:48 pm Reply

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