Further afield from the main inner temples of Angkor there are many more fascinating and interesting temples that one can explore. Even though they are ‘outer’ they are not so far in distance from Siem Reap, so a tuk tuk or organised tour can be organised for a days exploration. I chose Journey Cambodia for this as during my research to get to Banteay Srei I saw that they offered this temple as a stop.
After being collected by our amazing guide Sok, we took a lovely drive out to and stopped at first to the east gate to check it out. I absolutely loved this gate, as it was covered in beautiful green moss and it just felt so atmospheric. The east gate also has some cool elephant sculptures on it, and of course the obligatory heads of gods.
When Sok asked us 3 ladies on tour if we were up for a little hike in the jungle before getting to our next temple we all said yes. A morning walk before the heat of the day through the jungle sounded nice. We were dropped off seemingly nowhere, just dumped on the side of the road, but Sok knew the way and soon enough we were heading to our next temple through lovely jungle, seeing some crazy ants and weird insects, and learning about some plants as well. Soon we hit the complex of Preah Khan, which from our remote entry was totally empty. This actual eastern entry was the main historic entrance, but for logistics most tourists now enter from the west. It was wonderful to come to a temple through the jungle, with nobody around. By the time we got to the main entry, we saw people, but for us we got to experience it quietly first, and that was great, because this temple complex is amazing! Preah Khan means “sacred sword” and is one of the largest complexes in Angkor. Preah Kahn was a centre of worship and learning, and this can be seen by the fascinating two storey ‘libraries’ that can be seen. I really enjoyed this temple, it could be one of my faves!
Onto Preah Neak Poan next – a unique island temple that can be reached by walking over a boardwalk. This interesting little complex was believed to celebrate Buddha achieving nirvana. Once over the boardwalk you will see a larger square pool and then four little square pools. I am guessing this one is important to buddhism as while we were there we met some buddhists who had travelled over 100km to get here. They were happy enough to pose for a photo, another one of those little travel moments I will remember!
East Mebon was our next stop. This one is a hindu temple and was erected around 944. On the base of each corner there are beautifully carved elephants seemingly guarding the temple. There is some really interesting brickwork as you get into the heights of the complex. There was nobody here when we visited this one around midday, and it became a bit overcast too, which made for an atmospheric visit. I remember just sitting on a brick feeling utterly exhausted, but also incredibly pleased that I was here and experiencing this history all by myself (I think my friend and our fellow traveller were doing the same in their own little corner of this temple too! lol)
Banteay Srei was up next, and I was really looking forward to this. Prior to my research I had never heard of the place, but after stumbling on a post on it by the fountain of knowledge that is Leighton (www.leightontravels.com) I just knew that I wanted to see this place. Leighton highly recommends it as one of his fave temples, and I have to agree – it is stunning! Not so much for its size or grandeur, Banteay Srei is prized for its Angkorian art. This is a hindu temple dedicated to Shiva and made of a pinkish stone. Banteay Srei means “citadel of the women” and it is thought to have been built by women because a man could not have done the intricate and delicate carvings that are found throughout. The carvings and bas-reliefs in this temple really are mindblowing, it seems like every inch, every little nook and cranny is carved. Even though by this stage I was kind of ‘templed out’ I got a renewed energy running my hand over the carvings of lotus flowers and other beautiful scenes. This temple is quite far, about 32km from Siem Reap (approx an hour drive) but it really is worth it!
There was one more temple on our itinerary for the day and this one was a beauty as well! Even though to the reader it may feel like we packed in so many temples and it must have been rushed it wasn’t like that at all – we got to visit each temple at a relatively leisurely pace, we had plenty of time to stop and photograph what we wanted, and we had a long lunch break too. Pre Rup was the last of the day, and with the sun coming out and being afternoon by this stage I was pretty cooked! lol. Its quite the climb up to explore the pyramid shaped temples, but the views from the top were worth it. Pre Rup means “turning the body” , which refers to a traditional way of cremation. Our guide showed us where the cremations would have occurred, and explained that this was probably an early crematorium for the royals. A nice way to the end the day hey? lol.
Overall a full but fantastic day exploring the ‘outer’ temples of Angkor. For those that only have a day then a tour of Angkor Wat and a few of those temples from my previous post would be a must, but if you have the second day up your sleeve definitely visit some of these temples!