Winnie (not Winnie Chan The Foul Mouthed Sailor) had told me sometime back that since her life revolved around work, work, the pub, work, work, pub and the occasional work she has chose to live her life vicariously through me. Chindiana. The grumpy fu...., um... (this Winnie is a gentle soul unlike the OTHER one).. soo..
Anyway, here you go. I give you first hand experience as if you're sitting on my shoulder on my visit to Banteay Srey loosely names the "Citadel of Women' or the Citadel of Beauty'. It doesn't matter. You women are all beautiful.
The wind is cold against by bare legs as the Tuk Tuk buzzes down the small roads in the early morning. The air is chilly and fresh as Mr Stal our driver makes his way to Banteay Srey about 38 km from Siem Reap.
It is only about 7.30am and we hope to get to the little temple in about an hour. We skirt past the Angkor Archaeological Park and head towards the outskirts. We pass by smaller villages and dried up rice fields. The terrain all around us is flat with brown fields waiting for the rainy season to transform them into oceans of green.
The morning sunlight lends a golden sheen to the terrain as the winds from our little trailer with seats pulled by a 'cub chai' bike picks up speed on the quite morning roads. Occasionally a bus overtakes us nosily - some tourists making a beeline towards Banteay Srey. We see more i feel from the open carriage of the tuk tuk - the slightly slower pace lets us absorb the countryside and it's people - old ladies boil steamy somethings in large cauldrons along the road, a pregnant woman holding an umbrella with one hand and guides her bicycle across a busy road with another, men cycle along the road with at least 15 feet long of plywood strapped to the bicycle.
We pass by an army training center on the right and Mr Stel says that we can try out shooting some guns later if we're up for it.
We pull up to the visitor center for Banteay Srey and are surprised by the number of buses already there.
Damn tourists. Old ones too. They REALLY don't need that much sleep it seems.
I like Banteay Srey. One - the tourist, visitor and information center are very contemporary with a local touch. Its simple yet tastefully done. And compared to the other sites that we've visited at the Angkor Archaeological Park, it has an information center.
The second thing about Bantey Srey. Its pretty. Its small and unassuming compared to the other temple but it is delicate with intricate carvings. The pink sandstone contrasts against blue skies and the green of trees and the overgrown lake behind.
The two girls from the APSARA Authority - tasked with ensuring that the temples are not fucked up by stupid inconsiderate tourists or locals.
The entrance to the the temple.
SAMPLE OF SOME CARVINGS.
Quick facts - It was built in the late 10th Century. It is made of pink sandstone. Unlike other sites in Angkor it was not a royal temple. It was built by King Rajendravarman's counsellor Yajnavaraha who was also the future guru/mentor/yoda jedi master to King Jayavarman V.
The best time to visit the temple is before 10.30am and after 2pm as the sun is not too harsh and colors are stronger at these times.
I took this picture from the information center showing the temple from a birds eye view. I've tried to add some landmarks but the red font i chose is crap. Don't strain your eyes too much.
Another photo from the information center.
Early 20th century conservation/restoration work on Banteay Srey
I walk out and spend time around the temple again. The red earth much similar to the earth in our oil palm estates crunches beneath my shoes. I like this place. It is quite and it's simple elegance is in contrast to the noisy, congested bedlam at the larger monuments close to town.
I walk past the outer walls of the temple. A local cultural band plays local music which to me sound as monotonous as crickets at night. The German and French tourists seem fascinated and gather around to take the music in. I walk along the path that skirts the temple leading me back to the entrance. The path is shaded by tall trees on either side. I see a flash of blue between the foliage and make my way down to this lake by the side of the temple. I assume it must have looked beautiful in its heyday. It is now choked by weeds.
Manly Men and their Secret Urges.
We ride up to the shooting range about 20 minutes from Banteay Srey. All illusions of machoness of pumping rounds from automatic weapons evaporate when we see the prices on the 'menu' - the cheapest is USD40 to shoot off 30 rounds from an AK 47. That would almost buy me 35 jugs of beer in Siem Reap. I tell Nex I'll pass. Nex wants to take some pictures but the mercenary fukers at the range want to charge us USD10 bucks for taking the pics. Since we're there, Nex pays up to remember the day he almost went Rambo in a little country in Indochina.
More AK47s and a Sten (?). I'm prob wrong ...
Nex looking down the barrel of a gun.