On Friday, 14 July, 2017, I spent nearly the entire day touring, visiting four temples and one museum. I feel that it’s only natural that I’ll grow accustomed to these spectacular Angkorian-era temples at some point, but there are so many and they vary so widely in terms of style, materials, subject, condition, etc., that I continue to be amazed and in awe at nearly each one I visit, even those that I’ve now seen three and four times.
The first temple visited on this day was Banteay Srei, about 20 miles north of Siem Reap: an hour-long ride by tuk-tuk. This 1,050-year-old temple (completed in 927 CE) is distinctive for it size (miniature in scale compared to most of the other temples of the era), the material used (a red sandstone good for carving and which often has a pinkish hue), and the extraordinarily intricate design. It is easily my favorite temple.
In many of these photographs, you’ll see signs of archaeological conservation — especially wooden wall supports and reassembled pediments with tympana — common to many of the temples in the greater Angkor Wat complex. There is grumbling to be heard among tourists about the presence of such devices and signs of modern work, but I take the opposite view: beyond simple gratitude and relief that these structures are again being maintained and preserved following centuries of neglect, theft, and abuse, I find the work itself fascinating to observe. And rather than let signs of that archaeological/ engineering work “ruin” pictures — to put it in terms expressed by those surprised and upset — I attempted to get a good sampling of photos that highlighted the work which I hope to use in a post dedicated to those efforts.
The Wikipedia article on Banteay Srei does a good job of explaining the history and describing the fascinating architectural features. And links off that article go into further detail of more general but no less interesting topics, such as the religious/ artistic distinction between aspara and devata and the architectural elements called lintels, pediments, and tympana that are used in the many temple doorways. If seeking out more information on this temple, beware of the more touristy website pages like Lonely Planet. Any article that hints that the temple may have been built by a woman should be disregarded: there is no question about who built this temple, and the small size and fine detail of the carvings have nothing to do with the sex or gender of the builders and craftsmen. To suggest otherwise is silly, if not insulting on certain levels.
And finally, on to the pictures: