From Angkor Wat, it is about 45 minutes by bus to Banteay Srei, a beautiful, tenth century, Hindu temple complex. Banteay Srei — Citadel of Women — is made of red sandstone, and it takes on a deep pink glow in the afternoon sunlight. Its low walls, relatively small size, and the intricately carved scenes of Hindu tales are welcoming.
Completed in 967, Banteay Srei remained in use until at least the 14th century. It is the only major temple at Angkor not built for the king. It was actually constructed by one of king Rajendravarman’s counselors, Yajnyavahara, and dedicated to Hindu gods Shiva and Vishnu. The temple was rediscovered in 1914.
When we arrived, the Exodus Travels group listened as our tour guide, Vanney, explained that the center doorway was reserved for the king, while the two much smaller ones were for everyone else. Because of the temple’s small size, we all walked in more or less a square around the many peaked structures in the center of the square, photographing buildings, doorway arches, and carved reliefs. Decoration covers almost every available surface.
Every temple has its own personality, built to honor different factions of the Buddhist and Hindu religions. Each is a three-dimensional window into the rich history of Cambodia.