Banteay Srei – The glowing temple of Angkor

When visiting Angkor archaeological park, most sightseers enjoy the sunrise on the most famous Angkorian temple – Angkor Wat. It surely is spectacular and a must. But, outside the grand and petit circles of Angkor archaeological park, there are other beautiful sunrise-spots.

We found our favourite one – more or less by accident – at Banteay Srei. The temple looks like a miniature of the big Angkorian temples. We were amazed by the detailed ornamental carvings.  When we went there, no other visitors were “in our way”. That was incredible.

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Here is how we did it

The hotel we stayed in – Memoire d’Angkor – organised our tuk-tuk for visiting the sights. On the second day, after we already had gotten up at 4 am to see the sunrise over Angkor Wat the day before, we wanted to take it easy, relax at the pool and maybe visit some temples at sunset. However, our tuk-tuk driver recommended he would take us to Banteay Srei instead. He was very persuasive, so we agreed.

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Once again, we woke up very early, rode the tuk-tuk for more than an hour through darkness and arrived at Banteay Srei around 6:30 just in time for sunrise. We were the first ones there! No buses, no tourist groups. The guards just started arriving, because the official opening time was at 7:30. They let us in anyway, and we had the whole temple for ourselves.

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The sun was illuminating engravings of the sandstone walls, and the whole place was glowing in almost mystical orange-red tones. We felt as if we had travelled back in time. The whole spectacle lasted only a few minutes. When the sun gets a little higher, the temple changes its colour to faded red.

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After our “private” visit of Banteay Srei, we enjoyed our packed breakfast under the trees in the temple’s picnic area and took a walk on a well-marked path around the temple. Striking swamplands full of rice plants and lotus flowers surround the area.

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By the time we enjoyed our late morning tea on the terrace of a close-by restaurant, the first tour bus had arrived. We, on the other hand, got on our tuk-tuk and headed back to Siem Reap. On the way, we were stunned by views of the magnificent Cambodian countryside.

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Sometimes we caught a glimpse of a tuk-tuk coming from the opposite direction and were surprised by all things a vehicle like this can carry.

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We arrived back to Siem Reap just in time for lunch and had to admit: postponing our chill out time, was the best idea ever. So, if your plan for Angkor visit contains Banteay Srei – and we strongly suggest it should – go very early in the morning to get the most of it.

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