The Remote Temples of Ta Prohm and Banteay Srei
Trip Start Oct 23, 2011
22Trip End Nov 12, 2011
A classic temple intentionally left partially unrestored, massive fig and silk-cotton trees grow from the towers and corridors offering some of the best 'tree-in-temple’ photo opportunities at Angkor and it is where the movie Tomb Raider was filmed. Our driver worked for the movie crew during the filming and met Angelina Jolie, quite an event for this small town and he was quite proud of his participation. None of us had seen the movie so he brought the DVD to play for us in the van on the drive back to town after our visit to the temples.
Just two days before our visit a massive damaged statue of a Buddha was unearthed, found entwined in the roots of a tree near the east entrance of Ta Prohm. The statue is that of the Buddha sitting upon mythical hooded, seven-headed snake that sheltered the Buddha from torrential rains just prior to his enlightenment. The statue, which is missing both the Buddha head and snake hood, was found entwined in the roots of a tree. Our guide knew where they reconstruction crew was working and led us back to the work area so we could see the large Buddha. A tent had been erected and photos of the entire complex and restoration plans were on view.
The second site we visited was Banteay Srei, also small and uniquely constructed of a pink stone. Loosely translated Banteay Srei means ‘citadel of the women,’ a modern term that probably refers to the delicate beauty of the carvings. Built at a time when the Khmer Empire was gaining significant power and territory, the temple was constructed under a powerful king, Rajendravarman and later under Jayavarman V. Banteay Srei displays some of the finest examples of classical Khmer art, walls are covered with some of the most beautiful, deep and intricate carvings of any Angkorian temple. The temple's relatively small size, pink sandstone construction and ornate design give it a fairyland ambiance.
All of the sites we have visited are unique in their own right and really quite picturesque. Bond did a wonderful job of steering us away from the crowds or arranging to visit at a time of day that we missed the masses but there were still a lot of people and often it was the hottest part of the day. We were exhausted at the end of the day but oh my so worth our time.
We are taking great delight in the people we have met, very friendly, knowledgeable about their history and proud. When asked they do not speak much about the days of the "killing fields" but were all affected and seem to want to look forward rather than back. I am impressed by their gentle natures and good humor. The city is not very attractive but what it lacks in beauty is more than made up for by the charm of its people.
Showers have never felt so good as after a hot, sticky day of exploring. We decided on a Thai restaurant for dinner and figured it was a good distance from our hotel so engaged a tuk tuk to get us there. Even before dinner was served a tropical rainstorm came out of the nowhere, thunder, lightening, deafening rains pounding on the roof, so loud we couldn't even carry on a conversation then flooding the inner courtyard of the restaurant in just a few minutes which led to quite a sight as the chef, in her white chef’s hat and knee high black rubber boots waded through the water, tray of food in one hand and umbrella in the other. The rain didn’t slow her down one bit as she delivered food and drinks to all of her customers – quite a unique sight - no camera.
We had asked that our tuk tuk driver to come back for us about 7:30 p.m. and it was still raining to beat the band so we were not thrilled at the prospect of riding back to the hotel in an open tuk tuk but our driver arrived a few minutes past 7:30 and had completely enclosed the tuk tuk with a drop-down awning of sorts. The ride back was nice and dry for us while he rode on the motorbike outside with only the protection of a poncho. What a nasty night, we gave him a nice tip even though tipping is not the custom.