It might be a bit tacky for some tourists, but one thing that I do enjoy doing whenever visiting a new country is to visit their National Museums – the reason I visit them is not only because they often possess items and history that is distinct to the city/country, but the way things are curated also sheds light on how the country wants the world to see it – so after the solemn visits to S-21 and Cheong Ek, we went to the National Museum of Cambodia.
The building itself is beautiful in its own way and highlights what Cambodian architecture stands for although the building had to be refurbished after the impact after Khmer Rouge regime between 1975 to 1979.
The museum is home of the largest collection of Khmer art and when we visited, they had a temporary exhibit talking about the history of architecture in Cambodia. From the exhibit, you realise that before Pol Pot, Cambodia was at the forefront of South East Asia development and considered one of the success stories of Asia; but sadly, in a short 4 years, the Khmer Rouge regime managed to kill a large portion of the “educated” and subsequently set Cambodia’s progress back by decades, if not centuries.
Looking at the exhibit, Cambodia feels like a country which is trying very hard to heal from it’s past – the awareness of Pol Pots, the careful curation and audio guides all hint at the sense that the government is keen on making things right and restore the country to its glory days. The museum is peppered with gorgeous artifacts and in the backdrop – the photos turned out quite well 🙂
Our trip to Cambodia was short, but at the same time, incredibly eye opening, the country invoked my curiosity and also love of understanding and witnessing how a society heals from destructive acts – I only hope that their current change is successful and I can be there to witness a once thriving city thrive again!