17 Jan
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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

26 December 2010

Banteay Srei

26th December 2010

Banteay Srei is the name of the last temple we’ve seen in Cambodia. Again, it is a pleasant surprise to find that it has a different character again compared with those we’ve seen before. This temple is smaller, but the sandstone is a desert orange and the whole place is covered in the most intricate carvings we’ve seen.

Before getting to Banteay Srei we visit a place called Kdal Spean which bears a mention. A long uphill walk including some rocky scrambles leads to a burbling stream. On the stream bed more than a thousand phalluses have been carved out of the sandstone, apparently to purify (!) the water before it flows through the Angkor complex another 40kms downstream. It should be noted that these phalluses are ‘linga’ and thus symbolise the god Shiva. In fact the carvings aren’t the impudent

pillars we had expected, but just rough bumps carved to be barely an inch high. Very ‘representative’ indeed, and hardly worth the awkward and hot walk! Although on the way back down we had the pleasure of seeing French tour party coming up in flip-flops.

Banteay Srei was refreshing, as touts had clearly been banned from hassling tourists who kept to the route away from the souvenir village. The incessant whine of “You wan’ cold drink mistaaaah?” and “You wan’ silk scarf mistaaaah? Only four dollar… only two dollar… one dollar… two for one dollar mistaaaah?” had been getting to us over the last couple of days. Getting an eightfold price reduction without even trying to haggle (or showing the slightest interest for that matter) was amusing at least.

The stonework at Banteay Srei was a pleasure to gaze upon, and rather than delve into superlatives I’ll just leave some photos here. It probably comes fourth in our top five of Angkorian temples, below Ta Prohm, Bayon and Preah Kahn. Maureen and I spend an inexplicable amount of time making up top five or best/worst lists as we travel, on almost any subject. Top three lemurs? Indri, diademed sifaka, red-bellied lemur. Well, we’re together 24 hours a day, which means both that we have more conversation time to fill and also that we have no separate experiences to report to each other. It’s a wonder we don’t go nuts. Or nuttier, anyway. If you haven’t already, take a look at our Best and Worst page for a random sample.

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