The Preah Khan Visitor Centre, a unique living heritage museum sponsored by the World Monuments Fund that opened last week, sheds light on the local culture and how village life revolved around this great temple complex over the centuries.
Large displays provide background on how the temple was constructed and show how the area affected residents. There is a specially commissioned map of the entire complex. An eight- metre-long black and white photographic panel shows the famous East Gopura with its spectacular tree formations.
An exhibition by the Cambodian photographer Mak Remissa documents life in the nearby village of Liang Dai. Villagers from here, and Buddhists from elsewhere, still use Preah Khan as a sacred place to make offerings at the central stupa.
The vast Preah Khan is the second-largest temple and one of the most complex in Angkor Park. An estimated 70,000 people lived and worker here in the twelfth century. Many local people have ancestors who lived here in the time of the great King Jayavarman VII, who dedicated this temple to his father.
The new visitor centre is on the site of the old visitor centre, just beyond the West Gopura, which is currently under renovation. There is no entry charge, but visitors will need an Angkor temple pass to gain access to the site.