Banteay Srei

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Ross Huggett

What makes Banteay Srei stand out is the stunning craftsmanship of the statues and sculptures that cover the site. The name Banteay Srei translates as 'Citadel of Women' and is the name given to the place post rediscovery in 1914, due to the intricate apsara (heavenly nymphs) carvings that adorn the interior. The carvings are so refined that experts assumed the temple must have been built in the 13th or 14th century. It was later identified that the site was founded in 967 AD and was commissioned not by a king, but a tutor to King Rajendravaraman. It is a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva and the sandstone now has a warm pink hue to it. Its distance from the main sites and concealment by overgrown jungle meant it was rediscovered later most other sites. It was, however, the first major site to be restored by EFEO in 1930 using the anastylosis method. This was very successful and led on to bigger sites like Bayon to be restored using this method. Unfortunately thefts of statues became all too common, so the guardian statues are copies of the originals which are now in the National Museum. In 1923 a Frenchman was arrested for attempting to steal several of Banteay Srei's major statues. This didn't seem to cause too many problems to his career, as he was appointed Minister of Culture under Charles de Gaulle. A small baray (reservoir) just behind the temple covered in lotuses offers boat trips on the pond, US$7 per boat. Banteay Srei is 28km from Bayon (about 50 minutes by moto-remork, US$20), and 37km from Siem Reap in a northwest direction. If you want a smoother air-con ride, you can get a taxi for around US$35. You pass the landmine museum on the way here (8km before), which is well worth a visit. Kbal Spean with its River of a Thousand Lingas is just 12km further down the road, with the animal conservation centre (ACCB) near the carpark. Banteay Samre (14km directly east of Bayon) is also just off the main road en-route to Banteay Srei so can be a good stop. The quietest times are early morning and late afternoon. So advisable to do as your first temple of the day or just after sunrise before the tour buses arrive.. Entry: Angkor Archaeological Pass required, see info section for more details. Open 5:30am to 5:00pm

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