This week I’m exploring the fabulous temples of Angkor Archaeological park, with Angkor Wat being the pinnacle for my Moms 60th birthday next week. Banteay Samre is to the East of the main two loops (the Angkor Wat small circuit and the Angkor Wat Grand Circuit). It therefore gets less attention than the main loop temples and I was thrilled to have this temple all to myself!
How to get to Banteay Samre
Banteay Samre is situated along Road 810 a few kilometres east of East Mebon. It’s in between Roads 67 and 66 which get you to Banteay Srei temple and on to Kbal Spean and Phnom Kulen. Banteay Samre is about 20km from Siem Reap and a bit more than 10km from Angkor Wat temple. If you are a strong cyclist, you may take a cycle ride out there. At only 20km from town, it’s possible to take a tuk-tuk or a taxi. Many guests will combine a trip to Banteay Samre with a trip to Banteay Srei, Phnom Kulen, or another attraction in the area such as the Butterfly Centre or the Landmine Museum.
The best way to get there is to book a GRAB Tuk-Tuk or book a private tuk-tuk driver who will wait for you. I paid $30 for the trip to Bateay Samre and Banteay Srei with Serey – you can book him through What’s App on +855 96 794 6979.
An Introduction to Bateay Samre
Banteay Samre is quite a way from the main group of temples close to Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom. It takes a little while to get there, but it’s worth the trip. Not a lot people come to visit Banteay Samre. You can easily explore the temple without hundreds of other people around. This makes it a perfect choice for photography.
Furthermore, Banteay Samre is a smaller version of Angkor Wat and you’ll see the similarities between the two immediately. There is an enclosure with entrance gates at each side. The lintels here are very well preserved and you can see carvings which feature a fight between Rama and the ten-headed Ravana. You can see other mythical scenes too featuring Hindu gods such as Krishna, Indra, Vishnu, Laskmana and Hanuman.
There is an internal sanctuary which features low galleries and an entrance gate at each side. The central tower here has scenes from Hindu epics. There are both Buddhist and Hindu images here. However, a lot of Buddhist carvings would have been demolished during the Buddhist purges in the 13th century when King Jayavarman VIII came to power.
History and Religious Background
Banteay Samre was made by Yasovarman II and Kings Suryavarman II in the early years of the 12th century. This Hindu temple was constructed in the same style as Angkor Wat temple. Not a lot is known about the temple and what is known is speculation.
There is no real reference to the date of construction and few inscriptions have been found. There is a story associated to the temple called the “Legend of the Cucumber King”. Legend has it that there was a local farmer who grew the best cucumbers in the area. The king liked them so much that he told the farmer that he must kill anyone who came to his farm to eat them. One evening, the king had a taste for the cucumbers and went to the farm. The farmer, now conscious it was the king, killed him promptly. The king died without having sons, so the royal elephant was used in order to choose the next king. The elephant went straight to the farm and the farmer became the next king and the new king moved out of the royal palace into Banteay Samre.
Just like the other temples made during the Khmer empire, it’s thought that Banteay Samre was abandoned at some point in the 16th century. Right before World War Two in the 20th century, the temple was renovated by Maurice Glaize and his team.
Angkor Wat Small, Big Circuit and Banteay Srei 2-Day Tour
Day tours to the Angkor Archaeological Complex usually rush through the circuits that are on offer, which means you don’t really have the time to appreciate the history that’s around you. Make the most of the sights on this tour to the complex, spread out over the course of two days. On the first day, see the temples and ruins on the Small Circuit, including Ta Nei and Ta Prohm. Start the second day with lovely sunrise views of Angkor Wat before discovering the temples on the Big Circuit.
Explore all that’s on offer in this ancient UNESCO World Heritage-listed site
End your tour with a trip to Banteay Srei, made from pink sandstone
Listen to the stories of these sites without any interruption from your private guide
Get to and from Siem Reap in your own private transport, with hotel transfers included
3-Day Private Tour: Angkor Wat and Floating Village
See Angkor Wat and enjoy the enchanting floating villages of Cambodia. See Ta Prohm jungle temple, comprised by the roots of massive fig trees, and walk along tranquil forest roads that aren’t accessible by car. Watch Cambodia’s dense jungle from the top of Ta Keo Temple, made by the Khmers over 1,000 years ago. On this 3-day tour see the ancient Buddhist university of Preah Khan, made in the 12th century for King Jayavarman VII, and appreciate the well-known island temple Neak Pean. Go boating on the largest freshwater lake in South East Asia and see one of Cambodia’s famous floating markets as well as a crocodile farm. Experience the exquisite ‘Women’s Citadel’, then trek up Kbal Spean Hill to see the hidden waterfall and an 11th century carving of Hindu deities on the riverbed. Then visit Banteay Samre Temple.
Private 2-Day Tour with Sunrise & Sunset: Angkor Wat Temples
On day 1, visit the southern Gate of Angkor Thom, flanked by a row of 54 stone figures on each side – gods to the left and demons to the right – and the fortified city of Angkor Thom. At ‘The Bayon’, you will view its attractively crafted central towers, covered in atleast 200 enormous faces, then discover the Terrace of Elephants and the famous Terrace of the Leper King. Next, move to Neak Pean, a man-made island with a Buddhist temple. On the way back, have a brief stop at the well-preserved Banteay Samre, a laterite construction which once had internal moats. End your discoveries with an ascent for sunset at Pre Rub temple. On day 2, begin with a pre-dawn departure for sunrise outside of Angkor Wat. Go into the great temple in darkness from the low-visited eastern side, and tiptoe along old secluded corridors past the lengthiest stretch of carvings in the world. Finish your touring at Angkor with breakfast outside the temple and then continue by moving to the Preah Khan temple, a ruined but very atmospheric concoction of tree roots and disintegrating stone structures. Enjoy an afternoon drive to Ta Nei, a late 12th Century stone temple located in Angkor. Move on to the jungle-enveloped Ta Prohm, one of the most atmospheric temples in Angkor, once home to 2,740 monks.
Further Reading – if you Enjoyed Banteay Samre
If you you enjoy off the beaten track temples I would definitely recommend visiting the Roluos Group temples and taking a Preah Vihear tour. You might also want to check out the ultimate Angkor Wat Guide.
What to Pack for Cambodia
Take light cotton tops, long comfortable trousers and maxi dresses that cover your shoulders. Thailand is a conservative Buddhist county and you are likely to be refused entry to top sites like the Phnom Penh Royal Palace and Angkor Wat with shoulders showing and shorts or short skirts. You can pack shorts and vest tops for hanging around your hotel or the pool.Table could not be displayed.
Pack a water bottle because many guest houses are eco friendly and have a refill and reuse policy to cut down on plastic waste. The drinking water is fine and many hotels supply cold purified drinking water.
Bugs bite particularly in the evenings in Cambodia and so a bug repellant is essential. Also the sun can get hot – this Christmas and New Year temperatures were exceeding 32 degrees and so sun screen is another essential.