Siem Reap Day 3 – Banteay Srei, Beng Mealea, Lucky Mall, Art Center Night Market, Full Moon Night Market

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By right, today’s a free and easy day but more than 20 pax of us signed up for the tour to Banteay Srei and Bang Mealea for a price of USD59 per pax, inclusive of to and fro transport, admission fees, tour guide, and a lunch. Hmm, I thought it’s still quite expensive but oh well, I just followed the general crowd. The more the merrier!

Day 3 buffet breakfast at Angkor Royal Cafe again! I’m addicted to the dragonfruit smoothie~

After breakfast, we boarded the big bus and stopped by a village area to experience the general vibe and how the villagers grow and harvest the fruit trees as a source of food to live their daily life.

Banteay Srei is the modern name of a 10th century Khmer Temple originally called Great Lord of Threefold World, an appellation of the God Siva. The temple is probably related to the intricacy of the bas relief carvings found on the walls and the tiny dimensions of the buildings themselves. Some has speculated that it relates to many devatas carved into the walls.

What is Banteay Srei?

In Khmer, “Banteay Srei” means the “city of women” but this is a contemporary probably deriving from a phonetic pronounciation of Banteay Sri, the “auspicious city”, which is not the original name of the monument. Inscriptions discovered in the monument give its original Sanskrit name as “Isvarapura”, the “city of Shiva”. Banteay Srei was a shivaite temple: the main idol located in the central sanctuary-tower was a linga, the phallic representation of Shiva.

Although small in size, Banteay Srei is one of the jewels of Khmer art due to the outstanding quality of its sculpted decor, carved from red sandstone. A single-storey structure, the complex of buildings making up Banteay Srei is organised on an east-west axis.

A place of worship, it was also a pilgrimage site with the duty to provide hospitality. A representation of the celestial residence of the Gods modelled on Indian ideas, this temple was hierarchically organised. The central complex of the monument, at present accessible to tourists, must have been reserved to an elite, whereas the long walkway and its surrounding buildings to the east of the main complex were open to everyone.

When was Banteay Srei Built?

Banteay Srei was built under the reign of two Angkorian Kings in the late 10th century. Although Banteay Srei was funded privately, King Rajendravarman (944-968) and his successor Jayavarman V (968-1000) are both imentioned in inscriptions found in the temple. Yajnavaraha, one of the founders of the temple, was a high-ranking officer during the reign of Rajendravarman. The King awarded him land where three shivaite temples were erected by him, including Banteay Srei, in association with his younger brother. Consecrated in 967, the temple was not completed when Rajendravarman died in 968. The construction continued during the reign of Jayavarman V, with Yajnavaraha acting as his tutor.

How was Banteay Srei Restored?

Discovered in 1914, it was only after the looting of several bas-reliefs in 1923 that the Ecole Francaise d’Exteme-Orient (EFEO, French School off Asian Studies) began clearing the site one year later. The Angkor Conservation under the aegis of the EFEO implemented the first restorations in Banteay Srei between 1931 and 1936. Additional restoration efforts were implemented in 1952.

Due to the political situation from 1972 until 1992, no restoration work was carried out at that time. After the inscription of Angkor on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1992, the Banteay Srei site remained isolated until 1998, as visiting the monument was forbidden by the authorities on security grounds. IN 2001 the APSARA National Authority began maintenance work on site and closed the central part of the temple to the public in order to protect the bas-reliefs.

From 2002 – 2005, the APSARA and the Swiss government together implemented a conservation programme. The cooperation was continued in 2007-2008 with the new development of the Banteay Srei forecourt, better protecting the temple and facilitating the management of tourism-flow.

After exploring Banteay Srei, I tried a few sips of a natural and extremely sweet drink that comes from some kind of plant or tree or fruit I think. Can’t remember what’s it called though. Oops.

We had our lunch at Beng Mealea Kitchen. I don’t know why most of the dishes served were just different types of vegetables. OMG? I thought it’s quite a horrible lunch and I was indeed disappointed. Shucks!

Beng Mealea is around 65km from Siem Reap. I enjoyed the short walk through the dense jungle and felt like an explorer when I discovered the completely overgrown temple. Undiscovered for centuries, Beng Mealea has only recently been made accessible and remains unrestored. It is one of the very few temples that actually give the opportunity to climb through it.

After exploring Banteay Srei and Beng Mealea, we returned to our hotel to freshen up once again. Thereafter, we called for a tuk tuk for 3 USD to go to Lucky Mall, a small shopping centre for a fast food dinner at Lucky Burger. Yum yum.

Around 6.30pm, the tuk tuk driver picked us up at Lucky Mall and sent us to Siem Reap Art Center Night Market for more shopping. Woohoo! Shopping is my favourite activity anytime, anywhere. I got my purple flowery slippers for 2 USD, snacks around 1 – 2 USD each, artistic plate for 4 USD, “coach” watch for 10 USD, clothes around 1 – 2 USD each, cap for 3 USD. I think quite cheap and reasonable liao!

We also dropped by a very small night market called the Full Moon Night Market where my only loot was a special handmade cute and colourful owl sling bag for 4 USD. Super unique!

Hehe……. so happy leh bought so many nice stuff today. Tata! Can’t believe tomorrow’s the last day of holiday =(

Stay tuned!

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