Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Day 11: Why You Should Start Your Angkor Experience at the National Museum

On our last full day in Siem Reap, I checked out the Angkor National Museum. I kind of felt guilty we just breezed through the Angkor Archaeological Park the day before and I thought a trip to the museum would be a good recap to the whole Cambodian journey. And it was.  But if I were to decide, I’d start my Angkor experience in this museum.

Elegant facade of the museum
First, I’d like to say the museum is beautifully and elegantly built – fit for an empire indeed. The interiors are clean and well-kept. But what is most fascinating about the museum is the treasure it holds. Yesterday during the Angkor tour, I was admiring some of the carvings on the walls. What I didn’t realize is that these temples with their intricate carvings beautifully etched on the temple walls have a lot of stories to tell about the history of the Khmer empire. My trip to the museum made me understand (although belatedly) the bigger historical perspective – who were the Kings of the Empire, who built what temple, etcetera. I was awe-struck by the exhibits too, especially the gallery of the 1,000 Buddha images in all shapes, sizes, positions, and materials. It was also kind of creepy with all those Buddha eyes on you but a good kind of creepy.

Audio tour materials
An audio tour is available for an additional fee but it was worth the extra dollars. They will provide you with a headset and a small machine that plays the audio. You can go at your own pace, even repeat some explanations you didn’t get the first time. If you don’t opt for the audio tour, each gallery of the museum is equipped with short video introductions that will provide a preview of the entire section. So no worries, everybody goes home happy. I’ve never quite enjoyed a museum tour as this one.

One of the museum artifacts in the lobby. Look at those details in the carvings!

The Museum Shop sells a lot of cool items from soaps to books to clothes.
That night, we rode the Sleeper Bus back to Saigon, Vietnam. In this trip, we have ridden almost every known vehicle to man – airplane, taxi, motorcycle, tuktuk, seating section of the train, sleeping section of the train, bus, sleeper bus. Yes, we are living up to the backpacker’s lifestyle. And I love it.

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