Wat Banteay Srei – a lesser known monastery

Wat Banteay Srei – a lesser known monastery

The temple complex Wat Banteay Srei (which is not to be confused with Banteay Srei) is a real insider tip for visitors to the region around Siem Reap, who want to experience an authentic Khmer temple, which is definitely not overrun by crowds of visitors. Quite the opposite: the advance research on the Internet alone proves to be a difficult undertaking for those interested in planning a trip there, because hardly any travel guides or travel blogs have listed this architectural gem.

Dancing Apsaras

Even though it is not located directly in the center of Angkor, the temple of Wat Banteay Srei can be easily reached by car or tuk tuk, the access roads are well maintained and passable without difficulty. Right next to the temple is the present monastery complex and Prasat Banteay Srei Pagoda.

Wat Banteay Srei is located in a forest area, the buildings are partly already overgrown by plants. Nevertheless, the building can be visited without any problems. The temple was built entirely of laterite and sandstone, as was customary for buildings of the Khmer Empire.

Probably also due to the lack of visitors, no restorations are planned at the moment, and walking through the temple is done without signage or protection of the dilapidated areas: A real chance for adventurous visitors to discover a Khmer temple without feeling like they are walking into a mere tourist attraction.

The temple complex was completely aligned based on the east-west axis and, in addition to a prasat, has four gates on all four sides aligned with the cardinal directions. The interior of the temple’s sanctuary, effectively the temple room, is now filled with fallen boulders, making it impossible for visitors to enter. The complex has an entrance in the east and an exit in the west.
Even though the advanced state of decay may give the impression that there is only a wild jumble of former wall parts left here, it takes only a little time and a short round of exploration until the basic structure of the temple becomes clear, which differs only insignificantly from the more famous magnificent buildings of the Khmer Empire.

Around the actual temple, there are still fragments of gopurams, but they are no longer really assignable. The literature on the building is also sparse and hardly allows any conclusions about the use at that time as well as the period of construction (which of course would be an interesting factor, since the assignment of a temple to the respective ruler alone already gives a lot of clues about the structures and purposes).

All in all, Wat Banteay Srei is a destination for visitors with adventurous blood who want to discover Cambodia’s temples far away from the crowds.