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Banteay Srei and Kbal Spean

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Even if you’re feeling pretty templed-out, you’ll probably be captivated by Banteay Srei, 35km northeast of Siem Reap. Built of fine-grained rose-pink sandstone, it’s the most elaborately decorated of all Angkor’s monuments, its walls, false doors, lintels and exotic soaring pediments all richly embellished with floral motifs and Ramayana scenes. Comprising just a single level, it’s positively diminutive compared with the region’s state-temples. A little way further out from Siem Reap, at Kbal Spean, you can trek along the river to see fabulous scenes of Hindu gods and sacred linga carved into the river bed.

Banteay Srei (closes 5pm) is easily reached from Siem Reap on the new road from National Route 6 or by the old road which heads north from Pradak and passes through countryside and villages before reaching the temple. It’s a further 10km to reach Kbal Spean (closes 3pm), and it’s best to allow at least an hour and a half for the visit – it’s around 45 minutes to climb the hill. You need a valid Angkor pass to visit both sites; a one-day pass only can be purchased at Banteay Srei ($20). For refreshments there are restaurants at Pradak and on the new road near Banteay Srei, and food stalls at Banteay Srei and Kbal Spean. A new visitor and interpretation centre was opened at Banteay Srei in 2009, and things are now fairly organized with visitors being directed through the site in an attempt to prevent jams – unfortunately it doesn’t work very well and it’s as well to make sure you have plenty of time to make the best of this wonderful temple.

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