In recent years, Cambodia has become a mecca for western tourists seeking a true Southeast Asia experience. Cambodia, which up until a few decades was a relatively obscure and underdeveloped nation reeling from decades of war, famine, and strife, has emerged as a major tourist destination.
The Banteay Srei District (located in Siam Reap Province in northern Cambodia) is where you will find a treasure trove of traditional Cambodian culture. Yes, there is no shortage of things to see and do here.
Banteay Srei or Banteay Srey
You won’t want to miss exploring this 10th Century Cambodian temple that is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. It is located in the Angkor area. The buildings around the temple are all of the medieval Angkorian architecture. In any event, you’ll get a lot out of spending a few hours at this site. The word Banteay Srei means ‘Citadel of the Women’ in Khmer.
Yasodharapura and Angkor Thom
These small cities were once the medieval capitals of the region. As with much of the historic architecture in the Banteay Srei District, the buildings you’ll see are made of red sandstone and are miniature in scale.
Cambodian Landmine Museum
To anyone who knows anything about the modern history of Cambodia, much of it is mired in violence and unrest. Though the country is modern and peaceful, it is hard to escape reminders of the distant past, which are everywhere you go in the country. Unfortunately, landmines are still an issue in parts of Cambodia, especially the rural agricultural regions. Visiting this museum is an educational experience.
You may want to do some hiking while you’re in the Banteay Srei District. Phnom Dei is a 272-meter high hill close to Siam Reap. In addition to jungle hiking trails, there is also a small temple at the top.
Banteay Srei Butterfly Centre (BBC)
This center showcases dozens of beautiful butterflies found in the verdant countryside and forests of the district. Although perhaps not as exciting as other excursions you’ll no be embarking on, it is still worth taking a trip here.
River of a Thousand Lingas at Kbal Spean and Beng Mealea
This ancient Khmer site is in Phnom Kulen National Park in some of the remotest jungle territories you will find in Cambodia. The site seems to go forever – 150 meters to be exact – through the rainforest along the Stung Kbal Spean River. It is like nothing you’ve ever seen before, so you definitely want to keep this site on your to-do list.
This ancient Hindu temple is located in the East Baray region of the district. It was built during the reign of Suryavarnam II in the early 12th Century. Here’s a little fact for you: the temple is named in honor of the Samre, an ancient people from Indochina.
As far as ancient temples in Cambodia are concerned, Angkor Wat is the granddaddy of them all. Just a little heads up: because this site is so renowned, you are guaranteed to be nestled in amongst throngs of tourists who will be visiting just like you are. This temple complex covers 162.6 hectares and was originally built to be dedicated to various Hindu deities but has since become a Buddhist shrine. Angkor Wat is also a symbol of immense pride amongst Cambodians.
Experience rural life
Yes, as you travel through this region, you can’t help but notice that people do things much the way they’ve done them for centuries. Much of the work in the local rice paddies and fields is done by teams of oxen, as modern farm equipment is few and far between. If you can afford to, it is advisable to hire a translator as well as a driver who will take you to these somewhat remote areas and help to mingle with the locals, who are always friendly and hospitable.
Inspired to plan your trip to Cambodia? Keep reading!