Cambodia Travel

Banteay Srei: The Pink Temple of Siem Reap, Cambodia

Our Cambodia trip last 2013 was not just an out-of-the-country adventure, but also a 5-day bridal shower for our friend Alessa. That being said, it was strictly an all-girls-only getaway (with the exception of our tour guide Sam and van driver, of course!).

What’s the most fitting thing for 5 ladies to do in Siem Reap? Visit Banteay Srei, a pink temple that is also referred to as the “citadel of women”!

After all that climbing at Pre Rup, it was quite a relief to walk around this flat (i.e., no climbing required), single-storey structure. Even without the climbing, however, we still took a long time here because everything was so riveting that we had to pause each time something interesting caught our eye, and believe me, a lot of things here caught our eye!
Banteay Srei is known as the “city of women” or sometimes also referred to as the “citadel of beauty.” Many ascribe this to the pinkish tone of the temple, as well as the elaborate carvings found on the temple walls, especially those of devatas (female divinities) of the northern and southern towers. There were a lot of floral patterns, too. However, I learned that “Banteay Srei” i just the modern name given to the temple. Inside the temple, inscriptions written in Sanskrit reveal the original name of the temple as Isvarapura, or the “city of Shiva.”
There was much to be learned about this beautiful temple, and we started our journey of discovery by stopping by the Interpretation Center, which was a museum with huge photos of Banteay Srei, including its history, architecture, and a description of the bas-relief carvings we were about to see inside the temple.
Near the entrance of the Interpretation Center. We weren’t even inside the temple yet, and we already found it cool because of this area!
These photos were a glimpse of the periods of reconstruction of Banteay Srei
It was already past noon when we arrived, so we stopped for a quick lunch. There is an area in the Interpretation Center that serves hot meals and snacks.
Stalls selling souvenirs, clothes and accessories, and more right across the restaurants
This Cambodian chicken curry was for lunch, and it was so good!
From the Interpretation Center and the restaurants in it, it was a bit of a walk to the actual temple, and the ground was quite wet and muddy because it had just rained. It’s really best to wear sneakers or any comfortable closed shoes when visiting this temple, just in case.
We saw a tree with a white trunk! I’ve never seen a tree with a white trunk before!
Little monks. How cute! Monks are not allowed to touch women, though, so we couldn’t go near them. Oh well… they were too young for us anyway. Just kidding!

We finally reached the entrance of Banteay Srei. Even from afar, the rose-colored enshrinement built with hard pink sandstone was unmistakable. It was even more remarkable up close.

Banteay Srei is renowned for its excellent and intricate bas-relief carvings found on its pediments and lintels. A walk through this temple is like a history class made more fun and interesting, as the decorations on the walls depict stories from Hindu mythology. The Indian influence is really evident in the details of Banteay Srei.
A carving depicting Narasimha, a lion-man associated with Shiva, destroying Hiranyakashipu, a diabolical asura (greedy and power-hungry god). Really, the lion-man looks creepy as hell, but don’t judge because in this story, he is actually the good guy. Apparently, he is known as the “Great Protector” for those who follow Shiva.


A doorway showing the goddess Lakshmi surrounded by elephants as they pour holy water on her.
Sanskrit inscriptions chiseled on the stone of Banteay Srei


It was really, really, REALLY hot the day we went temple-hopping. Thank God for these shades and this hat!
Oh, just a bunch of devatas… not!


It was said that the main idol at the central tower was a linga, or a phallic representation of Shiva. This out-of-the-country bridal shower did not involve any male strippers, so I guess this linga will do!


We were so bowled over by striking colors of this temple. 


Over time, the temple has gone through some atrophy, but despite the uneven colors and hues of this tower, I still think it’s lovely.


Gods, demons, birds, and a dvarapala (guardian and protector of the temple)


Monkey guards at the central tower, which details the story of the Hindu epic Ramayana.
The ladies and I couldn’t help but be amazed by this small yet majestic treasure of a temple. No wonder many guides and articles that I’ve read refer to this temple as a “precious gem” or a “jewel of Khmer art.” This is one of the most popular shrines in Siem Reap, so do expect that there are a lot of tourists here. And because it is a tourist hotspot, expect a lot of hawkers as well — surprisingly, a lot of them are young children! They can be really pushy and they won’t take no for an answer, always calling out “Ledehhh! (Lady!) Three for one dollahhh!” We just kept ignoring them or saying “no, thank you.” Aside from that, this beautiful temple is really worth visiting, even if it is quite far. I mean, come on, it’s a pink temple! You don’t get to see that everyday!
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