Banteay Srei & Kbal Spean

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn our way back we stopped in Kbal Spean and Banteay Srei. Kbal Spean is a very intriguing place, some hermits chose this place to live their secluded lives in the 11th century. It is next to a river that flows through the Angkor plain and provides much of the water used there.  During their time there the hermits “sanctified” the the river by carving numerous symbols and reliefs into the river bed. This makes kbal spean a quite unique place to visit nowadays. The river now flows over thousands of small lingas and several very large one, with different gods thrown in the mix. Unfortunately, we’re not the first one to visit them and the river bed has seen much damage from “explorers” that tried to take home one relief or another. It looks sad enough where they succeeded, but the central piece used to be a large rock with multiple gods. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASomeone tried to steal it, broke the rock into several pieces, destroying some of the reliefs and giving the river another road to flow. Eventually he gave up. So that today, you can still see the large rock with its relief, but it’s all in pieces and the river is running underground at that particular spot. It’s really a pity.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe arrived in the parking lot for Kbal Spean very early in the morning and set of on the 2km hike to the place where the hermits lived. To my surprise we ran into a group of people sweeping the path. I would never have gotten the idea that a hiking trail might be swept daily to remove leaves, stones and such. Looking back, however, it is true that a lot of the paths we have walked in Cambodia were suspiciously free of any kind of “natural debris”.
When we reached Kbal Spean, we were greeted by a man we’d seen walking ahead of us a few times and we’d already expected that he would want to show us around. Unfortunately he had been bitten by a snake and while he assured us that the snake was very dead and that we could take as close a look as we wanted, he got very agitated when his little son tried to do the same… OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAApparently the snake wasn’t quite dead enough to be safe for his sun. He didn’t let himself get stopped by one tiny little snake bite, but he didn’t show us around either. So while his elderly colleague showed us around, he was manning the shop with obviously no intention to cut his work day short just because of a tiny snake bite. We just hoped that he knew what he was doing and the snake’s venom no threat to a grown human.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The guided visit was fun and very useful. Many of the reliefs are small and hard to find on your own, so I would definitely recommend taking up the offer of being shown around.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
From Kbal Spean we went on to Banteay Srei. Banteay Srei is one of the most visited temples in the Angkor area and, unfortunately, it’s also more or less the smallest. Add to this that a lot of parts of the temple are actually roped off and you get a very crammed experience where you can not really make out any of the details of the temple. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs you may tell I didn’t particularly enjoy Banteay Srei. I can’t deny that it is absolutely gorgeous and it did get emptier once we reached lunch time, but it just wasn’t for me. If I had been able to get closer to the individual elements of the temple I think I would’ve fallen in love too, but the way things were, the nicest part was to sit outside at the moat and watch the temple at a distance. That really was, very nice!

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