Angkor National Museum

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, though there seems to be less sculpture on display here than in the National Museum in Phnom Penh.

Some of the standout pieces in the collection include a late 12th-/early 13th-century seated Buddha sheltered by a naga, 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.

It is a very useful experience for first-time visitors, putting the story of Angkor and the Khmer empire in context before exploring the temples. 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 in a number of languages for US$5.