Banteay SreiBanteay Srei, or otherwise known as the Lady Temple due to the many figures of a ladies around the shrine, is over 1000 years old, and made from sandstone. The weather effects from the last millennium have not dimmed the craftsmanship or detail of the carvings, but the ground moving and toppling items has. The only major temple in the area not commissioned and built by a king. Dedicated to Vishnu, it's one of the oldest monuments in the entire Angkor Park. It's a good drive out from the primary complexes.
The ArrivalI was driven the entire way in a tuk tuk, an open-air trailer hooked to a scooter by my driver Lucky. Top speed, 40mph. AC, none. Dust, all of it. Temps, whatever they happen to be. The smells and dirt of the hour trip are not unpleasant. Experiencing Cambodia this way feels more authentic than a tour bus or an air-conditioned vehicle. You can smell the cooking, the fires, the dirt.
I was dropped off on the south side near the interpretive center. (It's a stretch to call it that, there is minor information and a few pictures. Like other foreign government projects, it started in earnest then burned out from lack of continuing funding). You then pass the ticket verification to walk down various paths surrounded by swampland and rice areas.
The TempleThe temple is a much sandier brown than the major temples closer to Siem Reap which gives an amazing play of sunlight against it. It is a rather tight temple, and doesn't have a lot of room to move around. It's a smaller space but it's ornately carved with such small details that have survived for a 1,000 years. A small collection of smaller temples and the intimacy of the pathways show the beginning of the evolution to the massive temples elsewhere.
Continuing OnAfter exiting the temple, there are two paths. One leads directly back to the entry area that will guide you through the large vendor area; the other makes a larger loop through the countryside by another lake and woods. Choosing the loop, I went to visit the lake and thought "Oh No, Mosquitos, Malaria!" Then I recalled I was taking Doxycycline to prevent that from happening, which is a miserable experience on its own. Note, malaria in Cambodia, especially in the outlying areas, is some of the most horrid in the world. I suggest talking to your doctor about a prophylactic approach to preventing it.
As I continued down the trail, the shade cut the strong April sun down quite a bit, and it was a pleasant stroll. I again ran into the vendors of the guidebooks, which seems to be the entry level for hawkers. I declined, but it took a while to get the point across since I was the only person on the path and they were laser focused of their sales goal.
After you escape the path, you end up at the far end of the vendor area, which also contains a few restaurants as well as booths selling silks, clothing, artwork, furniture. It's a large number of vendors and they are all very motivated to sell, so the same type of haggling goes on. Given they have a stall they are renting, the prices will be a bit higher to pay for that overhead.
SummaryThis temple, although way out there, is exceptionally cool. It shows the progression from the quarries towards Siem Reap of the movement of the stones. It also shows how temples were made before the massive constructions of the later Angkor complex. The detail is astounding, and the condition of the surviving portions is mind blowing.
The shopping and dining is pretty good. Remember your haggling techniques and identify some silks or other crafts if you are in the mood.