Tuesday, February 12, 2008

National Museum: Cambodia's repository of cultural wealth

Museum serves as a memory bank of every nation.

It gives us a sense of history, a chance to go back and study what has been and why we, as a people, behave in a society we current live in. It also shows how one country is able to save and preserve that “sense of history”. I am sure no elaboration is needed. All of us know the importance of a national museum. And so are the Khmers.

Right after Wat Phnom, Oki and I had our lunch at Sarady restaurant, just adjacent the temple. We had no time to look for other restaurant to eat because I was already about to die of hunger. I had a huge glass of shake (I think it was lychee or soursop) and a plate of spicy chicken stir fry with rice (which I have been ordering and eating since I set foot in Cambodia).

food at Sarady

Spicy chicken stir fry with swamp cabbage (kangkong) and a huge glass of shake courtesy of Sarady's. I love their chicken stir fry! One plate is good for two servings that I wasn't able to finish it.

view of the museum from the adjacent street

Facade of Cambodia's National Museum. I was getting the shot from the other street on our way to the UNESCO office, which is almost adjacent to the Royal Palace.

After lunch, our rickshaw driver headed for the National Museum, a few walks away from the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda and the Sisowath Quay (riverfront). The structure known as the “red museum” is distinguishable from afar due to its reddish terracotta-roofed structure of traditional Cambodian design.

Cambodia’s National Museum was designed by George Groslier and the Ecole des Arts Cambodgiens. It was built in 1917 in traditional Khmer style (with French influence, of course) and was inaugurated in 1920 by King Sisowat himself. It houses the world's foremost collection of ancient Khmer archeological, religious, and artistic artifacts from the 4th to the 13th centuries. Inside the museum are over 5000 pieces of important artifacts and is the repository of the Kingdom's cultural wealth.

the gate

Front gate of the museum.

enjoying the sunstreaks

I am loving the sunstreaks here! :-D

the lion guard (low angle)

Making the lion guard larger than life and the museum taller than usual.

Unfortunately, as we were about to pay our $2 entrance, we were informed that photography is forbidden inside the museum. We got there along with the other "eager" tourists who carried along with them their bulky DSLRs and got frustrated at the information booth. We weren't suprised at all. We knew there was a catch.

Well, actually it’s not really forbidden, because you could pay extra $3 for the photo op, which I went against. One, I hate paying and paying extra for that matter. Two, if they ask me to pay extra $3 and the proceed will go the maintenance of the museum, well and good but other than that, I wouldn’t pay. Or they could just ask $5 for the entrance fee. I am (quite) sure that every tourist who goes inside has a camera with them. Well, at least 80% chance that I am right and the rest 20% of the populace was just there for the viewing pleasure.

terracota roof

Ahh, I just love the designs and architecture of the Khmer. Fascinating to look out, lovely in my eyes.

with the elephant

Even the landscape is astonishing.


The place is well maintained. And because I stayed a bit long taking photos of the building outside, I had the chance to see and meet the gardener of the museum.

Anyway, I told the lady at the front that I won’t be taking photos but I need to bring my camera with me (cuz there is no way that I will leave it at the front desk). Good thing they allowed me, otherwise, I will not go inside.

I just enjoyed the long and winding tour inside the museum. One thing about not using your camera while touring is that, I get to enjoy looking at every artifact and piece of art with great enthusiam without minding the time or without being pressured if I have gotten enough photos. It also helped that we've visited the Angkor Wat in Siem Reap before we headed to the museum because I get to appreciate the displays a lot more (and the stories behind them).



haggis basher said...

More great photo's and yes, the sun streak works well in that shot!!

If I have to I always pay to use my camera, after all when will you be back there again? maybe never......

my gulch said...

Hi Mike,
Well yea, you have a point there. I just hated the idea of paying extra whereas part of the reason why it is a tourist destination is because people wanted to take photos as souvenirs. at least that's my assumption. i would have taken it peacefully if they just stick with the "photography is forbidden" sign. i will not insist because i know that in most museums, they really don't allow visitors to take photos. but then they make exemptions...for those who can and are willing to pay extra, THEY CAN TAKE PHOTOS. now i utterly believe it's not fair. what if i don't have an extra? well anyhow, what i am just trying to drive at here is to stick with their policy, that's all. but I guess, we live in a commercial world and every opportunity has to be paid for.

it turned out that i didn't miss much. most of the displays are inside a glass. the information i got and seeing them for real are enough for me, i guess. :-D

pieterbie said...

I hate it when you cannot take pictures. I really do. It is like that in most museums here in Belgium, the Dutch are better, I've seen a lot of pictures taken in Dutch museums.
Love the outside of this one, and love the way you've been so creative, choosing alternative points of view. It is almost like being there.

Toe said...

Wow, another great photo in Phnom Penh. Bilib naman ako sa inyo ni Oki... talagang pinuntahan nyo lahat. :)

I've been to the National Museum bringing visitors more time than I can remember so they all look the same to me by now. :) But the artifacts are really interesting. Pero parang kulang sa security no?

Did you smell the bat droppings? There was a bat colony there when they deserted it during the Khmer Rouge era.

Sidney said...

"now i utterly believe it's not fair. what if i don't have an extra?"

Life is unfair! Imagine all those people who will never get a chance to see all those artifacts...

Anyway, as long as you have a good visual memory it is alright.
Too bad you can't share the sight of those artifacts with us.

But then you brought us so many beautiful pictures back from Cambodia that it would be unfair to complain.
Great architecture and they have a good gardener!

my gulch said...

well strictly speaking, I could take some snaps and no one would probably know since security is not that tight. but i chose not to. lighting was good inside the museum particularly because there's enough light seeping through the large doors, i liked the effect but then again, i chose not to. they might have hidden camera somewhere. i just enjoyed looking and touring around.

haynaku. mahilig kaming kumota at sumunod sa itinerary. kesehodang hingal na sa pagod sige pa rin kase nga naman, sayang ang opportunity. di namin alam kung makakabalik pa di ba? ayos na din.

oo di nga sila mahigpit. the fact na pinayagan akong dalhin camera ko sa loob e parang pinagtakhan ko na. naisip ko din, naku baka may hidden camera at nanghuhuli sila. tapos bigla kang sisingilin sa labas ng lobby.

bat colony? onga meron pero di ko na pinuntahan. mabantot. parang mas natuwa akong tumambay sa mga benches sa harap ng museum kase andaming puno at halaman, kahit paano malamig.

good point. but that's exactly my point why we, should not be restricted to take photos...so that i can share it to those "who will never get a chance to see all those artifacts". afterall, isn't the point why i am posting them here? also to point out some lessons we learned along the way. specially for backpackers like us.

there was this piece that i really enjoyed looking at. so much so that, i think i spent most of my time standing there and looking at it. it's an old painting by a Khmer artist. I can't remember much of the details of the painting but it's beautiful (even though it's old and dusty). i wrote down some of my favorite artifacts and piece of art inside the museum but i don't have it with me. a little blue notebook which i used to write down what i think about these pieces of arts.

Tien said...

You know, I'm embarrassed to say that I have yet to go to my local museum...One of these days, one of these days...

my gulch said...

that is usually the case so no need to be embarrased. anyway, you can always go and visit anytime you want.

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