Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Siem Reap: Seeing Red

"Make sure you ask the guide to bring you to the Queen's Temple!" said Pauline when I told her of my plans to visit Angkor a few months back. However, Boh didn't know what I was talking about. It was only when I said that the temple was red in colour, that he figured out that I meant Banteay Srei. And Pauline, it's not the Queen's Temple. It's the Citadel of Women.

It was already drizzling by the time we came to Banteay Srai which coincidentally was just a few miles down the road from Kbal Spean. Trust Shirley to come equipped with plastic disposable raincoats for all of us.

As with most other Amgkorian temple complexes, we approached Bantey Srei via a stone causeway which is lined by 32 boundary stones. We were immedietly struck by how red ... or rather how pink everything was.

The carvings here were exceptionally well preserved and decidedly feminine. Apparently most of the raw materials used to construct this temple was made of red sandstone from the nearby river, hence its pinkish hue.

Almost every square inch of the temple is covered in carvings and Bantey Srei is widely known as the Jewel of Khmer Art. Looking at these beautiful motifs, I can understand why.

The outer courtyard was littered with arches and doorways that are roofless, no thanks to thieves who carted off anything they could carry for a quick buck.... including one Frenchman who later became the French Minister of the Arts!

This is a carving of Lord Vishnu in the form of the lion Narashima. He is supposed to be ripping the chest of King Hiranyakasipu.....erm... then I lost it because the guide started speaking in Catalan....
This is the ornamental roof of one of the gopuras through which one enters into the central court. Don't ask me what a gopura is. I forgot.

This has gotto be my favourite carving of the whole lot. So well preserved, so intricately detailed, so beautifully.... pink. Oh my.

In contrast with the sorry state of the outer court, the cnetral courtyard was remarkably well preserved. One could almost imagine the Kings and the priests walking fervently into the holy shrine for a morning prayer....

The gap between the inner and outer walls make for a great place to play hide-and-seek as well as dungeons-and-dragons. Oh, to be a child again....!

And here's Lord Vishnu ( I think) sitting on his pet lion, out on a stroll through the heavenly realms....

... when suddenly he chances upon the seven-headed Naga! "Quickly!", he cries to his lion as Lord Vishnu races forward to try to capture the serpent before it was too late.

A fierce battle ensues, resulting in lots of casualties and destruction. In the end Lord Vishnu emerges victorious but not before losing his beloved Narashima.

"How many times must I tell that silly story to these silly tourists???".....

Here's a candidate for Cambodia's Next Top Male Model. Look at that cheekbone. And the camera absolutely loves him. And that jawline..... I know, too much ANTM will do this to you.

Ain't she a beauty? I caught her staring listlessly (they do a lot of this here) while her (supposed) boyfriend was sitting quietly (read: guiltily) in the background. A lover's tiff, perhaps?

I love these two kids. Especially the younger one in the foreground. So cute!....

...until they pounce on you with their ware saying,"Please sir/ma'am.... buy my postcard/book/shirt/scarf/drink.... condom???"

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