Three more Terrific Temples in Siem Reap - Part 2
For our second day of Temples, Keo suggested that we went further afield. Our one day ticket extended to two days also now included other Temples, which usually are an extra charge. Incredible places for a Modelling Photo Shoot; what do you think, Vogue?
Our trusted driver Keo picked us up at 7 am in a car he had hired for the day and carefully drove the 64km drive to Beng Mealea Temple.
It is wedding season, and we passed a wedding procession who were walking to the reception (Yes, at 7:30 am!). The beautiful bride was dancing in the customary Cambodian style that we learnt in Phnom Penh. Guests, in their best colourful regalia, were caring food for the wedding breakfast, including a chicken and a cabbage.
We arrived at Beng Mealea Temple and discovered that we had the place all to ourselves. What a place! After yesterday we didn’t think anything could be as spectacular, we were wrong.
This sandstone Hindu Temple, dated to a similar period as Angkor Wat, was covered in the jungle for many years as it was difficult to reach. A road has now been built, and we were pleased to see that it has been left largely unrestored, with trees and shrubs thriving amongst the stone buildings and walls.
Walkways have been sympathetically built, making it safe for us to walk around. The only clearance done here now is local people sweeping the leaves, earning a measly salary to feed their family.
In the distance we could hear traditional music, adding to the ambience of this gothic Temple. It would make a fabulous location for a fashion shoot; I could imagine Vogue transporting Agi Akur, Elisa Mitrofan and Evie Harris here (see, I’ve done my homework – I’ve never heard of these beauts!) As the models were not here, Jac and I did a pretty good job in their place.
As we strolled around in awe, we saw a few doors which couldn’t be open. Keo explained that entrances were only placed on the east side, so for aesthetic reasons, these “blind” doors were created.
After two hours of enjoying the peacefulness of this place, apart from the odd squirrel and some birds, we left, just as four other people arrived. How lucky were we to have this beautiful, mystical sanctuary all to ourselves!
Our next Temple was possibly the oldest one we visited. Banteay Srei Temple is a 10th-century temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. It is a Temple with many names, including “The Lady Temple”, as Banteay Srei means Citadel of Women, “The Pink Temple”, due to the warm red sandstone it was built from, and “The Jewel of Khmer Art” – it certainly is a beautiful gem of a place. I am so glad Keo recommended we came here.
The whole place has a delicate, graceful feel to it. The intricate carvings are stunning, and many in excellent condition, despite being over a thousand years old – the benefit of hard red sandstone. It reminded Tim and me of places we’d seen in India.
Keo pointed out an excellent place for a great photo, but two young ladies were taking their time finding the best shot; we patiently waited. (We’re not used to people being around!) We called them over and got chatting.
The sisters are from Switzerland and planning to go to Vietnam next. We shared some travelling tips and also we'd heard from our friends in Ho Chi Minh that Vietnam is becoming more stringent with allowing people in the country. We hope the young ladies make it.
After a stop off at the Landmine Museum for Tim and I, a Butterfly Park for Jac, (Blog coming soon), and much needed late lunch, we came to our final Temple. (Keo did offer to take us to more, but we were getting templed-out!)
We are surprised how different all the temples are. We thought they would all be quite similar, but no.
Preah Khan Temple, meaning The Sacred Sword, is reached by crossing a bridge over a now dried-up moat, with stone soldiers and giants holding mythological Naga snakes. Many of the statues have sadly lost their heads.
The complex was built at the end of the 12th century by Jayavarman VII, dedicated this to his father.
He earlier had Ta Prohm (The Tomb Raider Temple) built, dedicating this to his mother.
As we entered the central entrance, we were enthralled at the never-ending tunnel. It was as if it had a mirror at the end, distorting the view of reality.
We walked on and on, through stone rooms, passed carvings and chambers. It was hot, and we were getting rather templed out! But we kept going, admiring this architectural work of art, finally reaching the other end.
Luckily, walking around the Temple was a lot quicker, probably as we weren’t taking so many photos; however there were a few incredible trees to admire, and Tim needed a quick hug with one.
Our fabulous driver, Keo, completed our 2.5-day tour. We were thrilled, his service was first class, and this UNESCO World Heritage Site was far more than we could wish for. No wonder this is included on Cambodia’s flag and the 500 Riel banknote. Deservedly so.
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