Thursday, December 20, 2012

Cambodia : Phnom Penh Museums - Day 1 National Museum

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Cambodia - Phnom Penh 8th & 9th December 2012

Statue At Entrance Into Museum
My last blog on a trip to Phnom Penh was almost six months ago. Yes, I still travel there frequently for business but seldom have time to to any other things when attending to work.

But this time round, I managed to clear some time off to do some touring.
And where to? Museums!
But this blog will be a tough one to write, especially on the second museum.

The two museums I will be seeing will be as contrasting as heaven and earth, or more aptly put as different as HEAVEN & HELL.

The sun shining through, a ray of hope for a bright future for the country. A future capturing it's glorious past.
One celebrates life and growth. Showing the history and culture of the country through art and artifacts collected and preserved through the centuries. Things to learn from a glorious past, providing a ray of hope for a brighter future.

The other is a memorial to death, paying respect to the dead who had suffered under a ruthless regime. Also another lesson to be learnt but one of era not to be repeated. We will come to this tomorrow. (... click here to see blog of Torture Museum)

The day prior, I left the KLIA-LCCT terminal and flew via AirAsia.
It was double lucky for me, this trip! When I arrived at the LCCT-KLIA, I was greeted by gaiety, Air Asia X was celebrating their 5th anniversary. The was an air of a carnival, albeit a small one. Around the airport terminal were small groups of brightly costumes promoters in Venetian masks.

Lucky No. 2,  I will be taking the 100th plane of Air Asia. It was dressed-painted up in a Dragon logo, fierce!

Lobby/Coffee Lounge of the Diamond Hotel, Phnom Penh
As usual, I arrived the day prior, but this time I wll be staying at the Diamond Hotel. After landing, my regular driver picked me up to send me to down-town Monivong Boulevard, Phnom Penh where the hotel is located.

DAY 1 - 8th December 2012

The proper start of my tour was after lunch of my second day.
Again I had lunch at my friend, Suhamie's place - Cafe Malaya. After filling my tummy with his good food, I hailed a motor-dop (motorcycle taxi) to take me to the National Museum of Cambodia.

For lack of a public transport system, the motor-dop is a cheap and quick way to travel around Phnom Penh, zipping around the increasingly heavy traffic of the city. (see Travel Tips - Phnom Penh)

The National Museum of Cambodia, Phnom Penh

Front View Of National Museum
In less than ten minutes we were at the front of the National Museum. The roof of the building is similar to many other buildings, with the stylized elephant trunks at the gable ends.
But this building was strikingly different and easy to recognize, it is strikingly painted in maroon red!

The entry to the compound is through a gate at the right, then into the building proper through a large door at the center.
Note: This blog is off from my usual candor style and more on a sober approach as it is about honorable items. Hope I don't bore you to sleep, though!

First, let's have a look at the layout plan of the museum.
It is pretty well organized, with different wings showing artifacts from different eras, and also different sections showing different types of exhibits, eg. Textile, Painting, etc.
I am not well versed with Cambodian history and so will present facts as best as I could, please do inform me of any error on my part.

For better understanding of the areas where the museum artifacts are from, please refer to the above map.

A large angel statue (about 12 feet tall) greets visitors as they enter through the main door. Perhaps it is also put there as a heavenly guard.

Just to the left of the Heavenly Guard, are busts representing the past kings of Cambodia & the Buddha, some dating back to as far as the 12th century.

Bust of King Jayavarman VII, Bayon style from the 13th century.

Bust of the Buddha, from 12th century Angkor.

Bust of Lokesvara, 13th century.

Bust of the Buddha, Bayon style 13th century.

 Bust of Dvarapala, Temple Guardian in the 10th century Koh Ker style.

Head of Lakshmi, 13th century Bayon style.

To the other side are statues of semi-nude women something akin to Indian style as Hinduism / Buddhism did arrive to Cambodia from India.

To the left and right of the main entrance hall are hallways with showcases displaying bronze artifacts from earlier periods.

A bronze artifact, 13th century Bayon style.

Buddha On A Dragon bronze artifact - from Phdau, Cheung Prei, Kampog Cham of 12th-early 13th century Angkor period.

Reclining Vishnu bronze artifact - from Presat Western Mebon, Angkor, Siem Reap of 11th century Angkorian period Baphuon style.

Male and Female Royal Regalia.

Reclining Buddha Lintel - 11th century Angkorian period.

Garuda Boat Prow bronze artifact. Garuda is sanskrit for eagle.

Schizt Treshold Slab with Sanskrit stanza from Takeo Province of 5th-6th century origin.

As I was about to step out, I saw that the large doors and windows looks old with classical paintings and edge trims. Were they relocated from some ancient building?

Close up of painted windows, showing female & male angels.

The door opened to a large, landscaped center courtyard, with reflecting pools at each corner and a gazebo at the center.
Well, I will take a break from the old and admire the new for a short while.

One of the four landscaped pools.

The gazebo at the center of the open courtyard.

A sandstone Buddha statue sits here.

Looking up slightly, I admire the beauty of the carving at the roof gable end of this gazebo.

Spire atop intersecting roofs.

The rear entrance to the front hall.

Intricate carving at the roof gable end of this rear entrance.

Entrance to the rear hall.

To one side of this courtyard is a roofed but un-walled hall with displays of sandstone statues. It's open concept seems very welcoming, and I went there first.

Sandstone Lion Head Statue - of 10th century Angkorian style from Prasad Thom, Koh Ker, Preah Vihear.

Sandstone Male Torso Statue - Angkorian period 10th century.

Sandstone carving door lintels.

Hunch Back sandstone statue - found at entrance of Prasad Thom, Koh Ker of Angkorian Period 10th Centtury.

Having completed the open section, I proceeded to the rear section corridor, its entry framed by two sandstone monoliths and there are -
Mahayaba Temple Boundary Stones - found at Wat Siset, Phnom Srok, Banteay Mean Chey and of Angkorian Period 11th century Khleang Style.

Vishnu on Garuda sandstone lintel - Prasat Sralao, Siem Reap of Angkorian Period 10th century Banteay style.

Angkorian Sandstone Lintol - found at Prasat Preah Ko, Roulus, Prasat Bakang, Siem Reap of 9th century Preah Ko style.

Part of a sandstone pediment - found at Toul Don Srei, Baray, Kampong Thom of Angkorian Period 11th century Baphuon style.

A cast iron canon, oddly with Chinese characters inscription.

Further down is a stately room with statues, is this the Buddha Room?

Sandstone Statue in front of temple poster.

Sandstone statue of Lokeshvara - found at east gate of Angkor Thom, Siep Reap of Angkorian Period 12th-13th century Bayon style.

Sandstone temple pediment.

19th century Rattan boat cabin, found at Wat Kampong Phluk, Phnom Krom, Siem Reap.

And while back at the front garden :-

Red Cambodian lion statue.

External view of window, showing intricate wooden carving.

Royal Elephant Statue.

Sandstone Female Bodice Statue

Sandstone Monkey Statue.

It had been an educational experience for me. learning that the great Khmer empire stretched back to the 10th Century or even earlier. Seeing for myself what great craftsmen and artisans these people were.

The National Museum OF Cambodia
Address : Street 13, Sangkat Chey Chumreas,
                Khan Daun Penh, Phnom Penh.
Tel./Fax : +855(0)23-211-753
Email     :

Opening Hours : Everyday 8:00 am to 5:00 pm

(Note : It is located next to the Royal Palace)
(... click here to see blog of Torture Museum)

You may also like :

Cambodia : Phnom Penh Day 1 - 28th July 2012

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