Cambodia, Angkor Archeological Park – part 1

The stunning Banteay Srei temple

For our second trip to Angkor Archeological Park, we hired a private van to drive us 35km north of Siem Reap to the Banteay Srei temple, one of the most beautiful ancient temples in Asia.  This temple stuck in our memory from 10 years ago as one to re-visit and it was simply breathtaking once again.  Banteay Srei is cut from red sandstone and is considered a ‘jewel of Khmer art’ with some of the finest stone carvings on Earth.  Built in the 10th century Banteay Srei is one of the smallest temples in Angkor Park, but for me it’s the most beautiful.  The temple is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva and is one of the few temples in the area not commissioned by a King.  Banteay Srei means ‘Citadel of Women’ and it’s been said that the stone carvings are so delicate that it must have been built by women.  The lavishly ornate buildings and central towers are decorated with male and female divinities and beautiful filigree reliefs.  Almost every inch is covered in magnificent decoration, so we made sure to stop and admire the beauty in the detail of the spectacular reliefs. I think this is easily a temple I could visit many times.  We arrived at 8:30am and there were very few people here, but after about 45 minutes the crowds started to arrive, and it became fairly busy.  I would suggest coming here at 7:30am when the temple opens!!

  • It's a small temple


Our second temple of the day was Banteay Samre, built as a Hindu temple during the 11th and 12th century.  This is another small temple from the same period as Angkor Wat, and Banteay Samre is constructed in a similar style featuring a single central tower.  Banteay Samre is one of the less visited temples in Angkor Park but features impressive lintels and ornate decorative features adorning the surrounding shrines, plus the remains of an ancient sarcophagus.  To the east are the remnants of a raised balustraded terrace and causeway featuring some impressive stone lions.


Our final temple of the day was Pre Rup, one of the grandest brick temples of the ancient empire, featuring a series of towers rising from a pyramid base to form a ‘temple mountain’.   This temple was built in the 10th century, before Angkor Wat, and the views from the top are fabulous.  Getting up there is a bit of work, the main staircase is very steep but worth it once you get there.  On the top level there are five grand towers, one in each corner and a higher central tower, the staircase of which is flanked by lions.  On each tower devata have been carved into into the brickwork flanking the doorways.  A feature I have noticed in all three of the temples we visited today are the exquisite decorative false doors.  In Khmer architecture, Angkorean shrines typically opened in only one direction with the other three sides featuring fake or blind doors to maintain symmetry.


What a day!  And there are many more temples in Angkor Archeological Park yet to see!

A private driver and minivan cost USD $50 for just under 5 hours.  It was nice to have an air-conditioned vehicle to escape to between each of the temples.



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