Date Traveled August 2012
I visited Banteay Kdei early in the morning on the day I was leaving Cambodia and during the heaviest downpour of my whole trip, a combination that ensured I was probably the only tourist there at that time. Walking around the wooded grounds of Banteay Kdei in the rain felt pretty mystical and was a great way to finish my visit to Cambodia in the monsoon season.
Banteay Kdei's Naga balustrade
Lion and Naga
Banteay Kdei means the citadel of chambers. A modern name and not what it was known as during the times of the Angkor civilization. It was built during the reign of Angkor's greatest king and builder, Jayavarman the VII, whose great legacy includes so many surviving temples and sites. He is also said to have expanded and beautified the pre existing baray across from Banteay Kdei, the Srah Srang or royal bathing pool.As for why it gets its modern name of the citadel of chambers, I don't know because I certainly didn't notice any special chambers or constructions any more different than what I had already seen in other similar flat single tiered temples built in the same periods like the famed Ta Prohm or the Preah Khan. The Banteay Kdei is situated amidst more thick wooded vegetation and trees than most other temples I saw and also was on the banks of a river. Staring from within the woods across the river at the ruins of the temple in the downpour is one of my most vivid memories of Angkor.
A gopura and the temple from across a stream
The lush green grass
From the forest across the stream
If this isn't your very first temple visit in Cambodia, you will not find too much striking differences in the architecture itself and the truly unique thing about Banteay Kdei is the scene of the place with the river and woods around it. I did notice interesting carvings of pairs of dancing girls on the walls that I don't recall seeing elsewhere. After my long contemplative wanderings around the temple and its surrounding woodlands I crossed the street to visit the Srah Srang. Typical visits to these sites involve first watching the sunrise from Srah Srang stone platform with the Angkor lion guardians. However that was pointless in the rains and under the clouds. I have mentioned in a lot of my other posts on my trip to Cambodia that all my apprehension about visiting Cambodia in the middle of the rainy season went away after experiencing the mystical feel of the temples in rains and with the lush green color of the vegetation during this season. But I did miss out on the spectacular sunsets and sunrises.
Banteay Kdei in the rain
Srah Srang, supposed to be a great place to see the sunrise...when it isn't raining.
Standing out and watching the Srah Srang in the rain, I could imagine seeing a magnificent sunrise reflecting on the waters at dawn. I resolved to return to Cambodia in a different season to experience things again but differently.
So ended my first visit to beautiful Cambodia and the magnificent temples of Angkor...but I was excited still because my holiday wasn't done yet and I was flying onward later that afternoon to charming Luang Prabang.