The Governor’s Residence, or Sala Khaet in Cambodian, is a grand European style building located near the Provincial Hall in Battambang.
The Governor’s Residence is no longer used a government building and is open to visitors from 08:00 to 18:00 every day. Entrance is free and there is a very helpful English speaking attendant on hand to show visitors around the exhibits.
About the Governor’s Residence
The Governor’s Residence was constructed in 1905 by the last Thai Governor of Battambang, Chhum Aphaiwong. Battambang, and much of the rest of north-west Cambodia had been under the control of neighbouring Siam from 1795 until 1907. Lord Governor Aphaiwong drafted in Italian architect Mario Tamagno, who also designed Hua Lamphong Railway Station in Bangkok, to design the Governor’s Residence not knowing that only two years later the province would be transferred to French control.
From 1907 onward the new French Colonial Governor of the province of Battambang took up residence, with the Thai Government having sold the building to the French Government as part of the deal to transfer control. Fairly recently a new building has been constructed next door to the Governor Residence’s to house the provincial administration, and the carefully preserved Governor’s Residence now functions as a museum.
Some, but not all, of the furnishing and fitting of the original residence remain in place. The flooring, window shutters, light fittings and larger pieces of furniture all appear to be original items dating back to the early 1900s. These are the parts of the building which it would have been difficult for looters and the various invading armies (Khmer Rouge, Thai and Vietnamese), who came to Battambang during the frequent chaotic periods that occurred in Cambodia from 1941 to 1991, to take away.
The Cambodian authorities have done a superb job of maintaining the Governor’s Residence and the once empty rooms of the building have been filled with exhibits of Cambodia culture and history in place of what would have been there when the building was used by the French Governor.
Downstairs there are several rooms devoted to displays of traditional music instruments from Cambodia. These are not antiques but they have been beautifully made using traditional carpentry techniques.
Upstairs there are other exhibits relating to Cambodian history. One of the rooms has mannequins dressed in Cambodian costumes from different periods and another room has some excellent models of different styles of traditional rural Cambodian dwelling. The exhibits are good and many are helpfully labelled in English and Khmer.