The plan for the day was simple – visit Banteay Srei and Barray. In between just enjoy the Angkor historical sites. Since I have seen Angkor Wat in my last visit, this time I had to skip a walk in Angkor Wat. On the way to Bakheng Hill yesterday I could see extensive conservation works at the Angkor Wat area, thus I believe my decision to skip Angkor Wat would be best for my interest this time.
Many of Angkorian temples were constructed using sandstone; which gave them unique grayish colour. One temple, however, was not white or grayish. Lady’s temple or Banteay Srei had been constructed by a scholar and it has the most unique brick-reddish colour. Later I learnt that it was built with sandstone as well, but a unique type which gave the reddish shade.
This temple is located far from the Angkor historical site entrance. My tuk tuk ride was like a fast moving horse riding experience, more than 50 minutes. The weather was not bright and hot. The morning rain had stopped before I decided to make my move, but the sun was just shying off. Throughout the day the weather was cool with cloudy skies. The temple was still under conservation works, but most area is accessible for tourist. It was indeed a small temple, compared to Angkor Wat. I immediately noticed the great architectural style of the temple with entrances or windows aligning straight from one to another – creating a mirror-in-mirror effect. Too bad I was walking alone, otherwise I may be able to get someone to snap pictures to capture this mirroring effect, with me included, of course. The main temple area was closed for public to walk. Nevertheless, since it is an open area, you can clearly see the beautiful stone art on the wall of the main structure. I was left speechless to see the delicate work of art on every inch of the temple structure.
The Angkor historical area is huge housing many temple ruins which were built during different Angkorian era. On my way out from the Banteay Srei, I could see houses where people make living with doing traditional agriculture activities. Aside from the houses and many paddy fields with buffaloes roaming, there was also sugar making activities along the road. Most of these houses were built and a few even have basic conventional water well (pump) which are clearly donated by others (indicated from signs erected near the houses).
My guide toured around the Angkor historical sites for about an hour. Besides from the temple ruins, I could also see how grand the old civilization was – huge entrance gates, bridges, walls and many other interesting structures. While I was going through the area my mind was trying to imagine how people lived during those days. This area must have been rich with people on the move, variety of sounds and smell, and with full sense of life. Many of the great structures remained intact; we even drove through a very big gate.
About an hour and half after we arrived at Barray area – the biggest first man made water catchment structure. The stretch of the Barray lake is 8 km x 2.2 km and it was created to serve as damn for the Angkorian people, especially during the dry season whereby water was big problem. This area now serves as a recreational site for local people. I wanted to take a dive in the water but since it was already crowded with people (it’s the Khmer new year season now – people are starting their enjoyment of the season), I chose to take my quiet time admiring the area.
I had my late lunch at Barray. Take a peek at my photo album and you’ll notice how unique the eating spots are built. I had grilled fish with rice, mango sauce and banana wrapped with sticky rice. The eating spots are with hanging hammocks for people to take rest after big lunch.
Thanks to my guide, he had also arranged my bus ticket to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The day ended early for me, as I wanted to do some packing and rest. Next destination would be Phnom Penh. The original plan of getting to Phnom Penh with boat had to be scrapped off – the river or water canal are technically dried at this time.
In total, I had wonderful time in Siem Reap; especially with the aid of a Malay speaking guide. For those who have not visit Siem Reap, this is a place to learn about South East Asia history, do a fair bit of shopping and just enjoy the excitement of the city. I have to warn though, it is definitely not a cheap city (for an ASEAN nation) – even the locals agree that those who live in Siem Reap is in their own league (I guess it is because of the living cost).
Browse photos here from facebook album >> Day 8 - Angkorian Temples (Banteay Srei) and late lunch at Barray