Near the Royal Palace sits another of Cambodia’s treasures: the National Museum. Designed by George Groslier, the museum is housed in an elegant terracotta structure. Even though it was built just a century ago, it has a traditional feel along with a tranquil courtyard and gardens with fishponds, reflecting pool, red lilies, lotus blossoms and dragonflies.
Of course, one of the main draws is that it also houses one of the world’s greatest Khmer cultural collections – including sculpture, ceramics and ethnographic objects from prehistoric, pre-Angkorian, Angkorian and post-Angkorian periods. Many of these artefacts are made of stone, wood, bronze or ceramics.
A reclining bronze Vishnu statue, recovered from a temple near Angkor Wat in 1936, greets visitors when they enter. This statue of one of the holiest deities in Hinduism is nearly intact – with head, shoulders and two arms (there are usually more). Other highlights include many powerful Buddhist images, as well as an eight-armed Vishnu statue dating back to the 6th century, statues of Hindu deity Shiva from 9th, 10th and 11th centuries, 10th century wrestling monkeys, Hindu goddesses Durga and a statue of 12th century ruler Jayavarman VII as well as more recent artefacts, such as a wooden royal barge.