For our third and last temple-hopping day in Siem Reap, I decided that we should go to Banteay Srey, an important and famous temple that should not be missed, said the guidebook. Best visited in the morning before 10AM, or in the afternoon after 2PM.
It was a 45-minute drive, on Sok Cheat's tuktuk, through a weird and surreal landscape. I don't know what it was-- for all intents and purposes we were driving through a normal countryside with regular houses surrounded by groves of sugar palms and rice fields, but somehow it felt strange and a bit eerie. The ghosts of the Khmers?
Anyway, I was a bit shocked when we got to Banteay Srey because it was so organised and touristy. They had a vast reception area with a gift shop, a humongous concrete parking lot, their own museum, and the grounds were manicured. It was Angkor Disneyland.
I was even more shocked when we saw the temple. Compared to the colossal edifices we'd been seeing, it was tiny! Like, built for midgets. The entire temple was roped off and you could walk around the whole thing in less than a minute.
But then I noticed the amazing details. The temple was built in the late 10th century using a finely textured pink sandstone, and painstakingly restored beginning the early 20th century. You can still see the different shades of rose and red very distinctly.
I framed my shots tighter. Some of the intricate carvings which seemed to cover every surface were smaller than my hand.
Oho! What's this? Lingas! In plain English, phallic symbols.
Banteay Srey (also spelled as "Srei") literally means Citadel of Women. So what does that tell you, huh? They must have been a fun bunch.
We left just as the swarms of multinational tourists arrived. I looked back and saw more phallic symbols along the path.
Learn more about the religious significance of the lingam in Wikipedia.