The sound of my alarm going off at four forty five in the morning is usually something I absolutely dread, but on this particular morning I felt a wave of excitement and adrenaline normally reserved only for special occasions. Given that this was the last day of our tour around the temples of Angkor by tuk-tuk, I was ecstatic to explore one of my favorites – Banteay Srei. As we meandered along the dark paths/roads passing rural Cambodian villages and farmland, I felt the cool morning breeze comforting my face. When we finally did arrive at the temple (this particular temple is one of the furthest away from the central ones) I was in for a real treat.
For the first time in all of the many years I’ve explored the Temples of Angkor, I was the first one to arrive. I couldn’t have wiped the smile off of my face even if you had paid me handsomely. As we wandered around the temple complex we felt as though we were actually exploring the temple rather than touring it. We were even given a special VIP tour (we did pay the guard a bit of money under the table) of an area of the temple that is normally off limits to tourists.
Banteay Srei is considered by many observers to be the ‘crown jewel’ of Khmer art given the elaborate and highly detailed decorative carvings lining its many walls. Built chiefly of red sandstone, this Hindu temple dedicated to the god Shiva was completed in the 10th century. The temple itself was once used as a University for Buddhist scholars. It’s personally one of our favorites in all of Angkor, Cambodia.
The following is a photo essay and travel video from our experience visiting Banteay Srei:
Banteay Srei – Temples of Angkor
A closer up photo of a statue with its arm broken off.
The intricate design and bas-relief carvings in Banteay Srei really set it apart from the other temples of Angkor.
Some more details of the relief carvings in sepia.
A series of doorways – going through each one makes you feel as though you’re traveling back in time.
Here Audrey is posing in one of the windows.
A closer up shot of Audrey in the same window.
Even the columns have detailed designs carved into them.
This is a photo from around the perimeter of the temple.
A framed shot through a doorway entrance.
Another perspective shot of the chiseled designs – many of which have crumbled over time.
This is easily the most colorful temple I visited in all of Angkor as showcased by this door.
The doorways are tiny as modeled here by Audrey Bergner.
This is a photo of the main entrance gate to Banteay Srei as I approached the temple.
Another shot of the door from a closer up perspective at Banteay Srei.
The main entrance gate leading to Banteay Srei.
I edited this shot to really enhance the colors which are impressive up close and in real life.
Travel Video: Banteay Srei
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This is a travel video we took from Banteay Srei documenting our entire experience
Banteay Srei’s Unique History
Banteay Srei is a temple located in the Angkor Archaeological Park near Siem Reap, Cambodia, that is known for its intricate carvings and unique history. Built in the 10th century, it is one of the smallest temples in the park, but its elaborate decorative carvings make it one of the most beautiful.
What makes Banteay Srei unique is that it was built almost entirely out of red sandstone, a departure from the usual gray or green sandstone used in other temples in the area. The use of red sandstone allowed for more detailed and intricate carvings, which cover almost every inch of the temple’s walls, columns, and lintels.
Another unique aspect of Banteay Srei is its history. It is believed to have been built by a courtier named Yajnavaraha, who served as a counselor to King Rajendravarman II. According to legend, Yajnavaraha was falsely accused of treason and was sentenced to death. He pleaded with the king for mercy, offering to build a temple in exchange for his life. The king agreed, and Yajnavaraha built Banteay Srei as a testament to his skills as an architect and artist.
Despite its small size, Banteay Srei is an important temple in the Angkor Archaeological Park and is well worth a visit for travelers interested in history, art, and architecture. Its intricate carvings and unique red sandstone construction make it a truly unique site to behold.
What Is It About Banteay Srei That Is Special?
Banteay Srei is a special and unique temple in Cambodia for several reasons. Firstly, unlike most of the other temples in the Angkor Archaeological Park, it was built almost entirely out of red sandstone, which allowed for more intricate and detailed carvings. The carvings cover almost every surface of the temple, including the walls, columns, and lintels, and are known for their fine details and delicate beauty.
Secondly, Banteay Srei is one of the smallest temples in the park, which allows visitors to appreciate its beauty and unique features in a more intimate setting. This is a departure from some of the larger temples, which can feel overwhelming and crowded, especially during peak tourist season.
Lastly, Banteay Srei has a unique and interesting history. According to legend, it was built by a courtier named Yajnavaraha, who was falsely accused of treason and sentenced to death. He pleaded with the king for mercy and offered to build a temple in exchange for his life. The king agreed, and Yajnavaraha built Banteay Srei as a testament to his skills as an architect and artist.
Overall, Banteay Srei’s unique use of red sandstone, intricate carvings, small size, and interesting history make it a special and must-visit temple in Cambodia. It offers visitors a chance to appreciate the beauty and creativity of the Khmer civilization in a more personal and intimate way.
How To Visit Banteay Srei
Banteay Srei is located about 25 km (15 miles) north of the main Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Here are some tips on how to visit Banteay Srei:
- Plan your visit: Banteay Srei is a popular tourist attraction, so it’s best to plan your visit in advance. Check the opening hours, ticket prices, and any other information you may need to know before you go.
- Hire a tuk-tuk or car: The easiest way to get to Banteay Srei is to hire a tuk-tuk or car from Siem Reap. You can negotiate the price with the driver, but it’s best to agree on a price before you begin your journey.
- Visit early or late: Banteay Srei is less crowded early in the morning or late in the afternoon. This is also a good time to take photos of the temple without many people in the background.
- Wear appropriate clothing: As with all temples in Cambodia, visitors must dress appropriately. This means covering your shoulders and knees. It’s also a good idea to wear comfortable shoes as the temple complex can be quite large.
- Bring water and sunscreen: Cambodia can be hot and humid, so it’s important to stay hydrated and protect your skin from the sun. Bring a water bottle and apply sunscreen before you go.
- Take your time: Banteay Srei may be small compared to other temples in the area, but it’s still worth taking your time to explore and appreciate the intricate carvings and unique red sandstone construction.
Overall, visiting Banteay Srei is a must-do for anyone visiting Siem Reap and the Angkor Archaeological Park. With some planning and preparation, you can have an enjoyable and unforgettable experience exploring this beautiful and unique temple.
When Should I Visit Banteay Srei?
The best time to visit Banteay Srei is during the dry season, which runs from November to April in Cambodia. During this time, the weather is cooler and drier, making it more comfortable to explore the temple complex. The dry season also means that the roads leading to the temple are in better condition, making the journey smoother and more pleasant.
However, it’s worth noting that this is also peak tourist season, and Banteay Srei can become quite crowded during these months. If you prefer a quieter and more peaceful experience, visiting during the shoulder season (May-June, September-October) can be a good alternative. The weather is still relatively dry, and there are fewer visitors, allowing you to appreciate the temple’s beauty without feeling rushed or overwhelmed.
The rainy season, which runs from May to October, is not the ideal time to visit Banteay Srei. The weather can be unpredictable, with heavy rains and flooding making it difficult to access the temple complex. Additionally, the humidity and heat can be uncomfortable, making it more challenging to explore the temple’s intricate carvings and details.
Hence, the best time to visit Banteay Srei is during the dry season (November to April) when the weather is cooler and drier. However, if you prefer a quieter and more peaceful experience, visiting during the shoulder season (May-June, September-October) can be a good alternative.
Accommodations Guide For Banteay Srei
Banteay Srei is a beautiful and historic temple located in the northern region of Cambodia. While there are no accommodations directly at the temple site, there are several options nearby that provide convenient access to the temple complex.
One popular option for visitors is to stay in Siem Reap, the nearby city that serves as a gateway to the Angkor Archaeological Park, where Banteay Srei is located. Siem Reap offers a wide range of accommodations, from budget guesthouses to luxury hotels, and it’s easy to find something to suit your budget and preferences.
If you prefer a quieter and more peaceful setting, there are several accommodations located closer to Banteay Srei, in the surrounding countryside. These accommodations range from eco-friendly lodges to upscale resorts, and offer a more secluded and tranquil setting. Some popular options include the Sala Lodges, Phum Baitang, and Belmond La Résidence d’Angkor.
Another option is to stay in one of the smaller nearby villages, such as the village of Phum Pradak, which is located just a short distance from Banteay Srei. Staying in a local village can provide a more authentic and immersive experience, allowing you to interact with locals and learn more about Cambodian culture.
When choosing accommodations near Banteay Srei, it’s important to consider factors such as proximity to the temple complex, transportation options, and amenities such as dining and spa services. It’s also worth considering the time of year you plan to visit, as some accommodations may have limited availability during peak tourist season.
Overall, there are several accommodation options available for visitors to Banteay Srei, including staying in Siem Reap, in the surrounding countryside, or in local villages. By choosing the right accommodations to suit your budget and preferences, you can ensure a comfortable and convenient base for exploring this beautiful and historic temple.
Banteay Srei Final Thoughts
Banteay Srei is a truly unique and beautiful temple that is worth visiting for any traveler exploring the wonders of Cambodia. Its intricate and well-preserved sandstone carvings, beautiful architecture, and fascinating history make it a must-see attraction.
When planning a visit to Banteay Srei, it’s important to keep in mind the best time to visit and the different accommodation options available. Visiting during the dry season is generally recommended, as this provides the most comfortable weather conditions and allows for better access to the temple complex. Additionally, staying in Siem Reap or the surrounding countryside can provide convenient access to the temple and a range of accommodation options to suit your budget and preferences.
During your visit, it’s important to respect the temple’s cultural and historical significance by following the rules and guidelines set out for visitors. This includes being mindful of your clothing, not climbing on the temple structures, and not touching the carvings or artifacts.
Thus, a visit to Banteay Srei can be a truly unforgettable experience, allowing you to connect with the rich history and culture of Cambodia and appreciate the beauty and craftsmanship of this remarkable temple complex.