The exterior of the Angkor National Museum is dull, which is compensated by its air-conditioned, luxurious interiors. The eight separate galleries are connected by a common corridor lined with fountains decorated with replicas of ruins. The museum looks more like a modern-day extravagant shopping mall, with each hall intricately designed according to the themes. You'll first enter a screening hall, which showcases a film briefing the history of Angkor. In the end, you'll be directed to enter the galleries.
Of all the eight galleries, the first one called the Gallery of 1000 Buddhas is the most popular among the tourists. As the name suggests, this hall comprises of more than 1000 different images and statues of Buddha in the form of Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, all illuminated. Hundreds of these statues made of metal, wood and carved stones were recovered from Angkor Wat, Bayon, Preah Vihear and Banteay Kdei. The life-size Buddha figurines at the centre are the most beautiful among all.
The second gallery is dedicated to Pre-Angkor period. Various large murals, statues, lintels and stone inscriptions depict the history of Khmer before the construction of world-renowned Angkor temples.
Passing through the corridor leads you to the third gallery, which includes hundreds of Bas reliefs including many Hindu and Buddhist sculptures along with several others that give a peek into the lives of common people of Khmer.
The fourth gallery is exclusively dedicated to all the kings of Khmer which include King Jayavarman VII, the greatest of all Khmer kings, Yasovarman I, Suryavarman II and Jayavarman VII. You can find huge statues of the kings, along with the details of their conquests, building of temples, cities and information about their reign.
The most visually aesthetic section in the Museum, the fifth gallery is dedicated to the world famous Angkor Wat temple. A large film gallery welcomes you, displaying panoramic images of the monument, describing its construction and architectural details. Don't miss to check out a rare collection of wooden statues recovered from the temple premises, some of which were worshipped centuries ago.
The following gallery six is dedicated to the ancient capital city of Angkor Thom, which served as the administration centre of the Khmer empire for more than four centuries. You can get to know how the city became one of the richest in history. There are details about the various constructions, infrastructure projects and public works undertaken in Angkor Thom by its founder king Jayavarman VII. A subsection within this gallery contains all the relics, inscriptions, statues and lintels belonging to different monuments within Angkor Thom, most prominent being the statues of Bayon temple.
Beside this is a gallery which contains complete collections of stone inscriptions, mostly in the Sanskrit language. Below each is a placard containing the translation. The inscriptions on these stone pallets consist of some interesting things about the Khmer empire like the documentation of public works done by the kings, records of land sale, registers including the details of all slaves, and social life of Khmers.
An entire gallery is reserved for fashion during the Khmer period. It consists of royal attires, various costumes worn by the royalty, statues depicting the evolution of unique styles including headgears, ancient jewellery. You can also find beautiful statues of Apsaras, the celestial dancers that inspired the Khmers.