With only around 700 people visiting Banteay Chhmar each year, it’s a great way to experience ancient ruins without having to battle busy groups of snap-happy tourists like you would at bigger and more popular temple complexes (I’m looking at you, Angkor Wat).
The road to the Banteay Chhmar Temple complex is lined with two rows of larger-than-life stone figures – some representing good, others depicting evil – creating an ominous railing as you walk along the dirt path.
Unfortunately, as is also the case at other Cambodian temples, some of the original stones are missing due to looting and newer replica stones have been set in their place.
At the time, we were the only visitors at the temple and as we slowly walked to view the ruins of each building, I found it a beautifully serene and reflective experience, allowing me time to imagine what life would have been like those hundreds of years ago when these incredible structures were busy and filled with Cambodians, going about their day or visiting to pay their respects to the Gods.
While Banteay Chhmar Temple hasn’t been excavated and is somewhat taken over by nature, the handiwork of the talented builders can still be seen. Some of the large stone walls feature intricate and impressive carvings displaying scenes of daily life, beautiful women and armies of soldiers in battle.
Visiting the deserted and overgrown temple felt like sneaking into a forbidden city where any minute some Indiana Jones-style booby trap was going to fling up out of the ground and bop me in the face. Thankfully life isn’t an 80’s movie, there were no hidden setups and I left unscathed.
Coming up next in my Cambodia series I’ll be sharing my visit to the Kompong Pluk, a town on stilts in the Mekong River.
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