Three days in Angkor Part 3: Banteay Srei, Banteay Samre and Siem Reap

When doing a tour of Angkor, it’s possible to rent either a car or tuk-tuk (both with driver) for your trip. We recommend the tuk-tuk, as it’s cheaper, the routes are straightforward and the open-air experience is great fun. We felt closer to the sights as we passed by the many temples. We especially enjoyed our tuk-tuk on the third day when we ventured further afield from Siem Reap.

Making our way out of town

Our final day in SIem Reap was a shorter one as we took in a couple of the outlying temples along with the ride around the surrounding area. It was interesting seeing the roadside stands selling everything from gasoline to food products, and we passed a few small towns as we went along. Apart from our bus trip to Phenom Penh the next day, it was a rare opportunity to glimpse rural Cambodian life, still very agrarian as it’s always been.

The first temple we visited was Banteay Srei. It takes about an hour to get there by tuk-tuk from Siem Reap, and the ride was enjoyable along the way.

Primarily dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, Banteay Srei was constructed during the reign of King Rajendravarman. The temple’s modern name, “the Citadel of Women” was likely given due to the quality and intricacy of the bas relief carvings found throughout the walls of the temple complex.

Rediscovered in 1914 and restored in the 1930s this complex has some of the best examples of sandstone art from the Khmer era.

The other temple we did on this day was Banteay Samre, also located outside of the main Angkor complex but not as far away as Banteay Srei. Named after the Samre, an ancient people of Indochina, the temple uses the same materials as the Banteay Srei. Restored from 1936 until 1944, it includes two libraries and gallery enclosures within its walls.

One thing we noticed about Banteay Samre was the cats around. They were friendly and we were able to give them something to eat as we had brought lunch with us.

You can see the single central tower in the middle of the photo
The lingam, a pillar-like representation of the deity Shiva

We went back into town a bit early on this day, giving us a chance to enjoy Siem Reap one last time before we moved on. The central part of the town and the popular spot for tourists is Pub Street, where there are lots options to get food or a drink.

The pubs and restaurants were lively and most had happy hours in the early evening. During our stay we tried local Cambodian food a couple times and even gave a durian a try from a street vendor near the market. The smell was strong and unique but the taste wasn’t bad. Still, we didn’t go out of our way to try one again.

It’s hard to argue with draft beer for 50 cents each

We felt that three full days exploring Angkor Wat was enough, although we could have added one more if we wanted to take in a few more of the surrounding sites. But we were able to take in all of the major temples without having to rush, and after a few days it does get a bit overwhelming.

We made sure to give our driver a good tip for all of his service. He took care of us for three full days including picking us up a number of times from our hotel to take us downtown as our hotel was a distance from downtown Siem Reap and the streets were very dusty.

The global pandemic has caused a lot of employment issues with people all over the world. While researching I found that the hotel where we stayed in Siem Reap (Grand Elysee La Residence) no longer has a working website and the reviews on Tripadvisor haven’t been updated since last March. Checking the official ticket site for the Angkor complex, only 1200 tickets were sold to foreigners for the entire month of January, likely due to quarantine rules when entering Cambodia right now. Last year 2.2 million people visited. The Angkor site is open, but few are coming.

We hope our driver, the wonderful staff of the hotel (they were amazing) as well as all the workers who depend on tourism are able to get through these difficult times. We were always impressed by the hard-working and friendly people of Cambodia who often have little, but who welcome visitors to their country with a smile.

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