Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrA Khmer temple complex of outstanding beauty, Banteay Srei is revered for its intricate carvings and for being built of red sandstone bricks, as opposed to many others (like famous Angkor Wat) which boast façades of much darker laterite bricks. The red hues are incredibly striking and gift the temples of Banteay Srei a unique and most charming look. Known as the ‘precious gem’ of the Angkor Archaeological Park, this complex is very well-maintained, easy to navigate and, because it’s a little further afield, also much less visited.
Brief HistoryBanteay Srei was built in the first millennia, dedicated to the Hindu god, Shiva , and was the first in Angkor not have been built by a monarch. Its name translates to ‘city of women’ and is believed to derive from the infinite carvings of female deities which you’ll find on its walls and columns. The temple was expanded through the years and, each time extensions were made, a dated inscription would be carved. The last date found was from 1303AD.
Banteay Srei shot to international stardom in the 1920s, not so much because it was newly rediscovered, but because the then French Minister of Culture was arrested for the theft of some of the most beautiful bas-reliefs of the temple, which were swiftly recovered and returned. Soon after the scandal, the surrounding landscape was cleared and the first of various restoration works began on the temple. Due to various cases of vandalism and looting, many of the priceless statues discovered in Banteay Srei have been relocated to the National Museum of Cambodia in Phnom Penh, although this is the case with a great majority of prominent relics.
What You’ll See When You Visit Banteay SreiThe first thing you’ll notice, as soon as you arrive at Banteay Srei, is how well organised the site is. You’ll find an info center, café and toilette facilities at the entrance, with a great collection of artifacts, a map and info on the temple and its surroundings. The walkway around and through the temple is well cleared and easy to navigate. Due to the extensiveness of the property, this is possibly one of the most relaxing places to visit in Siem Reap. Its popularity is clear yet crowds have a way of dispersing here, which can be very pleasant. If you can, make this the first temple you visit during your stay in Siem Reap; it's a wonderful way to enjoy a peaceful start to your sightseeing bonanza.
The main temple is a collection of concentric, rectangular courtyards, and although there is a central walkway you will have the chance to explore the side alleyways. It is here that you can explore at length and, more often than not, alone with your thoughts and camera. The bas-reliefs depict deities and battles, as is quite common with the Khmer temples. Do take care when admiring carvings on the balustrades, as much of the temple’s lateral galleries are in a state of disrepair, so tripping over is very easy when one’s eyes are not on one’s steps.
How to Plan a VisitA visit at Banteay Srei requires a half-day trip as the complex is about an hour’s drive outside of Siem Reap. Along the way, ask your driver to stop at the Cambodian Landmine Museum which is a very rewarding (albeit a little somber) attraction. A half-day trip out here can easily be extended to include nearby East Baray temples, like Bantey Samre (Angkor Wat’s mini-me) and stupendous Pre Rup .
A day’s guide and driver should set you back about $ 35 USD - $ 50 USD for an air-conditioned car, and about half that for a tuk-tuk.
Admission TicketsEntry to Banteay Srei is included in the Angkor Pass ticket detailed on the Angkor Archaeological Park page. The all-encompassing ticket costs $ 20 USD for a day ( $ 40 USD for three days and $ 60 USD for seven) and can be purchased at the ticket booth office just before Angkor Wat. If you’re planning to head to Banteay Srei on your very first temple sightseeing day, do let your guide/driver know that you are not yet in possession of a ticket.
Do you see any omissions, errors or want to add information to this page? Sign up.
Author: Laura Pattara. Last updated: Mar 28, 2015