Banteay Srei is a temple located about 25 km north east of the main temple complex of Angkor Thom in the Angkor Archaeological Park area near Siem Reap, Cambodia. The temple was built in 10th century and it was dedicated primarily to the Hindu god Shiva. The temple was built largely of red sandstone, a medium that allowed for very elaborate wall carvings that are still observable today. Even though the size of the temple is much smaller compared to others in the Angkor area, because of its intricate details it is popular among tourists to visit. The name Banteay Srei means ‘the citadel of women’ or ‘the citadel of beauty’, supposedly referring to the intricate details in the temple and the many devata (female deity) figures carved into the wall of the buildings.
We went to Banteay Srei as our first destination to visit during our day trip in Angkor Archaeological Park after the sunrise viewing at Angkor Wat and breakfast at nearby restaurant following that. Our tour guide Vanna suggested to go to Banteay Srei first and then work our way back closer to Siem Reap during the day. We hoped to beat the crowd there by going in the morning.
The drive to Banteay Srei from Angkor Wat took us through the Angkor Thom complex. We got a glimpse of the many temples that made up this ancient city. After passing Angkor Thom, we drove through several villages on the way to Banteay Srei. Vanna explained that the typical houses in the villages were built on stilts above the ground to provide clearance for the times in the rainy season when the area might get flooded. It also provides protection for the pets from wild animals, and practically, it provides some shade during the hot sunny day.
When we arrived at the temple, there were already a lot of other visitors there coming before us. We had our entrance passes checked before entering the temple, and then spent some time inside observing the intricate details of the temple. Since the size of the temple is smaller compared to other temples in Angkor area, there were many areas where we had to took turns with others to get closer and take photos. That’s why Vanna wanted to get there as early as we could so we didn’t have to contend with bigger crowd.
Vanna also told us again about the stories and myths behind the Hindu gods. Again, after a while things got blurred in my head — all I remembered was that Shiva and Vishnu were the two gods that seemed to be prominently represented in many of the temples, and Vanna said Vishnu was his favorite one given his role as the one who provides sustenance to the world.
The photo below was taken as we toured inside Banteay Srei. You can see the intricate details of the wall carvings. The morning visit was also nice from photography perspective as the light was not too harsh.