Our first day in the Angkor Thom complex was overwhelming. But even if you’re feeling pretty templed-out, you’ll regret missing the other noteworthy temples. We dedicated our second morning to visit two more temples that are considered off the beaten track. Still, their details and stories were as vivid as the popular ones. Arguably, they were even better backdrops for five crazy ladies.
The trip 35 kilometers northeast of Siem Reap to visit the captivating Banteay Srei was definitely worth it. Built of fine-grained rose-pink sandstone, it’s the most elaborately decorated of all Angkor’s monuments, its walls, false doors, lintels and exotic soaring pediments are all richly embellished with floral motifs and Ramayana scenes.
We were fascinated with the intricate details of what remnants survived of the temple. We couldn’t help but become shameless volunteer muses for own pleasantries, with proper art direction from our strict madame magazine editor of course.
The temple consists of low walls surrounding peaked structures of deep red sandstone. Banteay Srei means “Citadel of Women.” It is said that the reliefs on this temple are so delicate that they could only have been carved by the hand of a woman. The well-preserved relief carvings on the central buildings depict scenes from ancient Hindu tales.
After we took our fair share of photos and haggling, we proceeded to this head turner of a temple called Pre Rup – casually known as “Stairs to Heaven”.
King Rajendravarman constructed Pre Rup sometime in the 10th Century to be the capital of the new Khmer Empire. Pre Rup is one of the most architecturally and stylistically noteworthy structures in Angkor. Ornate bas-reliefs adorn the temple walls and towers. Carved guardian lions sit atop the temple terraces. From atop the terraces, visitors enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.
Exiting the comforts of our cool van gave way to the steam of mid morning – enough to prep for a facial. Despite the heat, we never lost our humor to pose!
But goofing around aside, we appreciated this morning because we were really able to feel the solemnity of the temples. In the midst of its ruins, we could imagine how life could have been during those ancient but brilliant times. The stories of our guide felt more alive as we had the places almost to ourselves. Though they may not be as popular as the highlighted ones, they are as spectacular sans the crowd and stress.