Banteay Srei

Cambodia November-December 2016 (21 photos)

After my 2 previous posts about the blue Mountains of Sydney, we return to Cambodia.

The temple of Banteay Srei is often referred to as The Pink Temple, due to the pinkish hue of the local sandstone used to build it.

It was built as a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva in the mid 10th century.

It is only a small temple on a somewhat miniature scale, yet the refinement of its carvings reached a level not found in any other Khmer period temple.

It is considered to be a jewel of Khmer temple art.

As you may appreciate, there is an active program to maintain this temple.

The temple is about an hour’s drive northeast of Siem Reap.

There is so much detail to appreciate and enjoy at this temple with carvings such as these on most walls and as in this case, above doorways.

Banteay Samre

Built in the mid 12th century, Banteay Samre is important for its iconography. Its pediments and lintels depict many mythological scenes, some rarely seen in other temples. It is believed to have been a Hindu temple.

These photos suit Paula’s Traces of the Past challenge nicely.

Prasat Preah Vihear

The drive north from Siem Reap to the border with Thailand took maybe 3 to 4 hours, including a breakfast stop; I don’t remember exactly. The Dangrek Mountain range marks that border. If you look carefully enough, you might catch a glimpse of the temple complex of Preah Vihear at the peak of the mountain on the right.

The temple is situated atop a 525 metre (1,722 ft) cliff in the Preah Vihear province of Cambodia. To reach the peak, you must report to the office at the base camp and pay a fee. You are then assigned your own driver and 4WD army-style traytop truck for the steep ascent to the peak. Sitting in the open tray back I thought I was going to fall out as the climb got steeper and every time we hit a bump. My knuckles went white as I gripped the bars to stay in the tray. All good fun for someone who lives in a country where sitting in a car without a seatbelt is illegal. Don’t worry, your driver and truck wait for you at the village near the top to take you back down.

Prasat Preah Vihear is an ancient Hindu temple complex first built during the 9th century.

As a key location of the Khmer empire’s spiritual life, it was supported and modified by successive kings and so bears elements of several architectural styles from successive centuries over an area of about 800 metres length. Preah Vihear is also unusual among Khmer temples in being constructed along a long north-south axis, rather than having the conventional rectangular plan with orientation toward the east.

In July 2008, Prasat Preah Vihear was declared Cambodia’s second UNESCO World Heritage site (after the Angkor Archaeological Complex in Siem Reap).

In case you’re wondering, yes this temple was used as a base by the Khmer Rouge.

As with many of the temples, it is still a place of active worship.

With a view south across Cambodia for as far as the eye can see, Prasat Preah Vihear has the most spectacular setting of all the temples built during the six-centuries-long Khmer Empire. That sign and rope was all that separated me from the drop below. Needless to say, the thought NEVER crossed my mind.

And with further regard to personal safety and security, my guide strongly suggested I not wander too far off the paths and the main complex. Of all the temples, landmines are still a consideration here given the past and more recent history.

Cambodia and Thailand have been sparring over ownership of Prasat Preah Vihear for centuries. In 1962, following a dispute between Thailand and Cambodia over ownership, the International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled that the temple is in Cambodia. Despite this, a fresh Cambodian–Thai border dispute began in June 2008 involving armed conflict and loss of life. On 11 November 2013, the International Court of Justice declared in a unanimous decision that its 1962 judgment had awarded all of the promontory of Preah Vihear to Cambodia and that Thailand had an obligation to withdraw any military, police, or guard forces stationed in that area.

As a continuing security measure, Cambodia maintains a police presence at the temple. My guide expressed a fear that should the Yellow Shirt Movement in Thailand assume control again, a fresh border conflict will begin, as that Movement was instrumental in the 2008 border dispute. Cambodia is a country that has long been troubled by wars and is currently in a long desired peaceful phase of its history. Another armed conflict is the last thing they need or want.

Leica Etcetera, Photography Etcetera

Lignum Draco and the Temples of Doom (5)


57 thoughts on “Lignum Draco and the Temples of Doom (5)

  1. Your ongoing essay gives us much photographic and written information to determine where to go if one ever visits Cambodia – I have always wished to visit these temple complexes. It’s great to get to know some of the more out of the way and unusual temples off the beaten track. this has been a great series, Draco, thanks.

    • Thank you very much, Debbie. Most tourists come for about 3 days, and tour companies take them all to the same sites. Consequently, there are thousands daily at Angkor Wat, and the other famous temples. But the smaller remote temples see fewer visitors and offer more surprises and solitude. I think my next in this series will also be the last of the series and include a temple where the the previous visitor (according to the mandatory sign in book) was 2 days before me, yet it was one of the more interesting temples I visited.

      And I particularly wanted to get out into the countryside, so the daily travel was all part of the adventure.

    • Yes,my preferred way of travel too, to get away from the maddening crowd – not always easy to do. Your series here gives some extra information to make those decisions – not sure when I will go though. The temples remind me a lot of Bali. I guess all with Hindu origins.

      • Yes, tourists tend to get clumped together. The trick is to break free of the selfie taking tourist crowd.

        I thank my guide for taking me to so many temples I was not aware of. I’m glad this can be of help to you as well. Each religion has an aesthetic. Similarities are seen the World over.

    • That impression probably comes from the particular emphasis I wanted to place on this tour of the temple. It was very ruinous in areas, but I’ve already shown a lot of ruins so I wanted a different angle for this post. Regardless, it’s amazing how well many of the temples are holding up since the 9th century!

  2. J.D. Riso says:

    I wonder if one could ever tire of visiting temples. They are all so unique. The Pink Temple, the tiny room with the tree growing out of it, and this last one high up on a mountain. If I ever visit Cambodia, I will be using your posts as a reference as to where to visit.

    • I had no idea when I arrived that I would be seeing so many temples. I actually scheduled 2 entire rest days but my guide volunteered to fill up those days by taking me to temples and countryside further afield. The value of local knowledge.

      Each temple had its own special feature and character to differentiate it from the others. I didn’t tire of visiting them all. Each day was a new adventure as far as I was concerned.

  3. Thanks for the history & geography of this location on a mountain top! I’ll have to read it again to get it in perspective. Those carvings are beautiful, made all
    the more wondrous by the colour of the
    stone they used. Amazing. M

  4. Thanks for the remarkable tour (as usual). It gives me pause. Also, I am always surprised when I see your color images. I prefer the monochrome, because they allow me to really focus on the designs and details: simply, my own preference.

  5. Wow! Thank you for this awesome series, Dragon! Thank you for showing the details of the carving. I also like the captures of the monk and the young boy. πŸ™‚
    I’m thinking, the walking and hiking with you camera and lenses under the heat and humidity, it must be very challenging. πŸ™‚

    • Thank you, Amy. It’s been a happy reminder for me going through these photos a few months after visiting.

      Yes, the heat and humidity was challenging. We’d start each day with a fresh pack of 24 bottles of water and get through most of them by the end of the day. Very important to remain hydrated in that environment as you’d know from your Thailand visit.

  6. Wonderful guide to the area; certainly something I would want to do after Siem Reap. I love the details that you show. The light couldn’t have been that uniform, could it? I suppose that’s hdr. If it is, then its done very well, allows us to see the details.

    • Having your own guide is a bonus and helps you get away from the crowds, and offers a greater perspective than wandering alone in a temple. There are many guides available in the area.

      These aren’t HDR, just single shots, with almost the same amount of processing applied to each photo. I would have liked full sunshine at Banteay Srei to really bring out the colour, but due to the cloud cover it wasn’t to be.

  7. Your journeys out to the more remote temples have been a delight although it sounds like the last one took nerves of steel to reach! I am happy to enjoy the trip from my armchair! Banteay Srei with its pink sandstone reminded me of the Qutb Minar complex in Delhi, built of a similar stone it appears.

    Absolutely fascinating places. Thanks for taking me to Cambodia. The sculptures here are wonderful.

    • Yes, they look very similar. Supposedly the red/pink sandstone used at Banteay Srei is of “higher quality” than regular sandstone which is why the detail of the carvings is so exquisite after all this time.

      The journey was definitely worth the small inconveniences along the way. Thanks, Jude.

  8. Well-captured.

    Banteay Srei is a wee beauty.

    I was lucky to visit there and other temples about 16 years ago. Siem Reap had perhaps 10% of the visitors it has now and so even Angkor Wat was relatively quiet. I recall being allowed to perch on a corner of the temple itself and had a small part of it almost to my self.

    Special times πŸ™‚

    Enjoy the rest of the trip.

    • Thank you. Banteay Srei is so beautiful.

      I travelled around Siem Reap for 10 days and my guide kept telling me about how much Siem Reap has changed, even in the space of only 5 years. The tourist dollar is a 2 edged sword. I wish I had visited 10 years earlier.

  9. KG says:

    How did you manage to find a time when Banteay Srei was so empty? We went off season and yet there were enough people out there. πŸ™‚ Lovely photographs, as usual.

    • I’d like to think that my guide knew exactly when the right time to visit was.

      In reality, the correct answer is simple dumb luck and not being on a tight schedule I was prepared to stand there and wait for the right moment to click. Additionally, my guide had no hesitation in asking people to move out of the way. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

      Thanks kindly, KG.

  10. The carvings in this stonework are like nothing I have ever seen, Lignum!
    I cannot even begin to imagine the time and talent required to do this.
    Thank you so much for sharing here!

    • Lisa, the carvings are an incredible sight. The detail and quality are simply astounding. I’m glad I could provide a glimpse into this beautiful temple and country.

      Have a great weekend ahead.

  11. Absolutely amazing. I just can’t imagine how these temples remain after all these centuries, let alone all of the carved detail. It’s all so beautiful. As far back as memory serves into my teens, it seems this area has always been in turmoil, which makes it even more amazing that any of this remains. Wonderful photos and history.

    • The time, dedication and skill required to create all those carvings would have been immense. And all done in the 10th century. I’m so appreciative to have seen it. Just amazing.

      The turmoil Cambodia has been through is is in stark contrast to the temples and the country’s beauty. You’re right, it is amazing many of the temples remain.

      Thanks as always. Have a wonderful weekend.

  12. robert87004 says:

    I’m pretty ignorant of the culture they had when all these temples were built but it must have been impressive. Excellent photos, excellent temples and, I would guess, a pretty excellent local guide. πŸ™‚

    • As far as I can determine, the Khmer Kings were all about honouring their Gods, hence the temples. Each successive King would build their own temple/s and with time, designs became grander. Hence the numerous temples in Cambodia, predominantly from the Siem Reap region to the border.

      Thank you very much. My own local guide was a key factor to this trip. I had no real time constraints on a daily basis, and we could go/stop whenever I wanted. Then the added commentary about the temples, Cambodian history and life.

  13. What a fabulous post Mr Draco .. and your photos make me want to jump on a plane with my camera. As much as that vista is stunning from the last temple, I would have to leave that one out .. petrified of heights! These temples are works of art .. thanks so much for sharing

  14. My reader is playing up Mr Draco .. hopefully you won’t get 2 comments from moi! I love this post, makes me want to jump on a plane with my camera! The workmanship in these temples is pure art .. and as much as the view from the last temple is amazing, looking at the pic made me feel a tad queasy .. I’m not good with heights! Wonderful images πŸ˜ƒ

  15. Pingback: BLACK & WHITE SUNDAY: TRACES OF THE PAST Y3-04 | Lost in Translation

  16. Some bits of our world never seem to know peace for long, do they? I can imagine you spending many hours gazing at the intricacy, Draco, and fathoming how best to present it. You’ve done a great job. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

    • Very true, just look at what’s happening in the world as we speak.

      You’ve got me worked out. Yes, I stood there in awe then started shooting away. Thank you, as always. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

  17. Who would have thought that the pink temple would look so captivating in black and white as well. You are taking us to magical places, Draco. There is so much to see and learn from you. Thank you for the entry!

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