She walks in beauty, like the night - Lord Byron
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
- Lord Byron
One of the first few poems I memorized by heart when I was in college was Lord Byron’s She Walks in Beauty. This was because of the tv series, Beauty and the Beast (Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman), which I religiously watched before hitting the bed. They used Byron’s poem as an opening line for their teaser.
When we visited Banteay Srei on our second day, this particular poem came to mind. This temple can be summed up in one word: beautiful! A treasure tucked away in the countryside. It's like a lady who's beauty you'll appreciate more once you get closer and closer.
Tourists entering the Gopura I.
Oki and I agreed that among the many temples we’ve visited, this is one temple that we both explored with great awe and amusement. We're always tempted to touch and feel. Makalaglag panga, pare! (Jaw dropping, dude!).
Gopura I and Gopura II going to the inner enclosure.
A stone window commonly featured with lathe-turned balusters. This kind of window is also found inside the main ruins of Angkor Wat. (Left photo) I spotted one of the sweepers in the temple taking her rest. I caught her staring at the passing tourists. I love her languid mood amidst the vigorous and noisy crowd of visitors. (Right photo)
Another intricate carvings I found at the brick shrine. I am not familiar with this one but it made me stop to look and take some shots. The mythical creature with 7 heads and the half human-half animal creatures around him are just stunning to watch.
So anyway, when we got to the temple (20km north from Angkor), we met a bunch of young vendors selling postcards and souvenirs (again!). One of the kids was selling Lonely Planet books and book guides on Ancient Angkor. I got interested in the latter, he sold it to me for $12 and I made some surprising reactions saying that it’s too expensive (I learned to exaggerate my reactions, which is part of the trick in haggling for a cheaper price).
“Okay 10 dolla!" he immediately retorted. “Nope, 5 dollars” I insisted. He showed me the original price at the backcover of the book which costs $27.95 and told me that he’s giving me a good price already. I refused. “Okay lady 8 dolla!” “No way. Forget it!” I motioned to leave trying to catch up with Oki and Lyn who were already showing their 3-day pass at the guards in front of the temple. “Okay 5 dolla miss!” the kid yelled and followed me. I stopped and smiled. I was thinking of doing another haggle but I saw the frustration on his face so I gave him the 5 dollars.
I was reading the book the other day and it looks like I got my money’s worth. Definitely a good read. The photos are awesome too.
One of the many 'false doors' following the long gallery near the central shrine. On the side are devatas (divine nymphs) with extended earlobe.
Bantaey Srei is referred to as “Citadel of the Women” or “Citadel of Beauty” which I think suits the description of this temple very well. It is known for its exquisite decorative carvings on the pink sandstone making this a distinctive feature among the temples surrounding Angkor. No wonder this temple is considered as the “Jewel among Khmer Art”.
Devata located at the South sanctuary. (Left photo) Shiva's dance of destruction. (Right photo)
Pink water lilies growing at the back moat of the temple. (Left photo) A Cambodian girl whom we found sitting inside the temple. She gave us that white flower. I kindly asked if she could pose for me, which she gladly obliged. I find her really pretty with that flower. I love the color of her skin and the innocent smile in her eyes. (Right photo)
Built during the 2nd half of 10th century, Bantaey Srei is dedicated to Tribhuvanamaheshvara, the Great Lord of the Threefold World. Entering the gopuras, you will be mesmerized by the extraordinary carvings with special focus on mythological narratives among its pediments and lintels. Likewise, the temple with its miniature proportions is located in a peaceful, isolated, semi-wooded setting that you will appreciate visiting this place all the more.
Indra on his three-headed elephant Airavata.
The headless Shiva fighting an elephant and a garuda.
This is the moat located in front of the temple. Every temple in Angkor has a moat which eventually overflow during the rainy season. There's another one at the back, all of them with growing lilies on it (pink, white, and silver blue).
The carvings on the wall were preserved. Some of the inscriptions on the floor are still there, which I find truly amazing. Since we do not have a tour guide, we would stop by and listen in to a group of tourists who have one and who would tell them stories about the carvings. It is interesting to know that a series of carvings on the pediments could tell a great story of exploration and adventure.