A visit to Jewel of Khmer Art, Banteay Srei Temple
Airline flight schedules have changed; so have our plans. Our flights to Luang Prabang in Laos are now mid-afternoon so we have an impromptu tour to a small temple, to beautiful Banteay Srei. On our drive through the Cambodian countryside, our tour guide talks about Cambodian culture. There are still many arranged marriages. 50% in the cities, perhaps as many as 80% in the countryside. The man’s family pays the dowry; the girl leaves home and lives with the man’s family.
Our Cambodia tours arranged in a flexible way, so, as today, we pass many thatched homes built on stilts that are without utilities. The homes are built for natural “air conditioning”. This is an area where there are still many landmines remaining from the 1970’s, a project Princess Diana took on. They believe they have located and deactivated 70+% of 10 million originally buried here. We visit the Citadel of Women, or Banteay Srei, a red sandstone temple known for its intricate carvings. It is a beautiful 10th century temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. Banteay Srei is built largely of red sandstone, a medium that lends itself to the elaborate decorative wall carvings. We get to see a wedding party having photos taken at different spots at the temple. The bride changes into seven different colored gowns throughout the day. We get to see her in royal purple and again in emerald green. Very fun.
I manage to nab another pair of the casual pants popular here, this one in rainbow shades. They are sort of like the pants MC Hammer made popular when his “U Can’t Touch This” was popular. Retro. Several others do speed buying as well. My friend Cheryl is mortified by the fact that I have selected these bilious rainbow colors; I love them.On the return bus ride, we visit a village that produces palm sugar, mostly for dessert treats. We sample the candies, which are like eating brown sugar. I buy a small jar, under the guise of helping the people whose livelihood depends on tourists who stop by the wayside.
Our bags are pulled at noon; we eat at the hotel lunch buffet and we all relax in public areas, since the hotel must get our rooms ready for the next guests. Some relax at the pool; some read in the lobby; several of us head to the spa. I get a new manicure. Same reclining position as the beach resort; but this time I insist from the start that this isn’t going to work for me. They set the massage table up like a deck chair on the Titanic and proceed.
By far the most popular activity was a visit to a new national museum behind the hotel. It has a huge model of Angkor Wat at the height of its opulence and splendor. And there are many many fascinating topics covered in the high tech facility. They recommend watching the movie and spending the money to rent the audio headsets. I recommend to include this before participants actually see the temples. We transfer to the Siem Reap airport, which is very impressive for a town of less than 200,000 people. But then again, there are 3 million visitors annually. They are building a new airport, farther away from the antiquities (they shake with the roar of the jet engines); and besides, they anticipate 7 million tourists in the not-too-distant future.
Many participants hit the duty free shopping. There are the same products we saw yesterday because the Angkor Artisans have a shop here. Many purchases. Still others, like Adorjans, are delighted to find grandchildren-sized tee shirts with elephants on them. Someone following my blog asked if I thought Angkor Wat was worth it if you didn’t go to the top. I say, “Absolutely!” I talked to folks in our group who walk with canes who didn’t venture above the first level and they found it glorious. So don’t be discouraged by my commentary; much of this trip is very accessible.
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