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Malaysia and Cambodia


This is about my upcoming trip to Malaysia and Cambodia. The first part is pre-trip - information about flights, itineraries, accommodation and all the things that you need to do to plan an overseas holiday. This is my first trip to Asia and I hope it may help others. Comments are very welcome and anyone who has travelled to Malaysia and/or Cambodia, please feel free to comment and offer any advice or tips that you think would be helpful. As of today ( 28th February) , in exactly 11 days (minus 30 minutes) I will be in Kuala Lumpur.

I had the most amazing time and hope you enjoy reading about my trip. Each post is numbered and I'm doing them in order from start to finish - a little like a diary.



64. Banteay Srei - 3

The Hindu yoni represents the feminine genitilia and a Hindu ligham (phallic stone) sits in the centre, representing the masculine aspects. The so called Ying and Yang of a balanced universe.

Above: Yoni
As you can see from this photo, the lingham has been removed and replaced by the Buddhist lotus symbol. Presumably, this would have occurred when the Khmers turned away from Hinduism and embraced Buddhism. Many of the structures of Angkor were originally Hindu orientated.

Above: Nandi
This is a statue of Nandi, the white bull which Siva rides.

Above: Yoni

Above: Yoni
The above two photos are the same representation of the yoni, again the lingham has been removed.
Hindus usually annointed the lingham with gee (clarified butter) during and as part of their worshipping their deity, in this case most likely Siva. The grooves and channels you see in the base are to recollect the gee, after annointing the godhead and thus becomes blessed and is used in further religious practice.

In the outer courtyard are there are many broken pieces in the process of being found, put together in their correct place and being restored.

Above: Fallen pillar

Above: Restoration in progress

Above: Numbers represent restorer's family

Above: Banteay Srei

When I walked out of the temple, I spoke again with the chap and told him I felt a sense of peace. He looked at me and nodded, I asked him is that what I'm supposed to feel. He replied, "Yes."

Banteay Srei is a wonder and marvel of meticulous work and of all the temples I saw, I liked this the best. True, Angkor Wat is majestic and awesome, but the small Lady Temple remains my favourite.

Awesome wonder
I remember being disappointed after I came home because when I was researching information about various photos I took, I realised I hadn't taken photos of intricate and specific carvings and railed that I took photos of the unimportant things. But, as I was selecting photos and preparing these posts today, suddenly I wasn't disappointed at all. It isn't the brilliant photos, or the angle or light or juxtaposition that are important, but something more - being there.

The really best thing is not photos that everybody oohs and aahs over - it is having been there. I was there, or rather here, I stood in front of the temples of Angkor and was filled with a wondrous awe that left me spellbound and breathless. This is what visiting Angkor is about - it's about being there and being able to witness the magnificance of thousand year old temples that have stood the test of time and remain solid and proud, a credit to their creators and all who helped build them.

Floor plan of Banteay Srei

63. Banteay Srei - 2

Banteay Srei means "Citadel of the Woman", but the local people call it the Lady Temple. Built in the 10th century, the temple of Banteay Srei is renowned for its beautiful and intricate decorative carvings in pinkish sandstone which gives the walls the appearance of a tapestry.

Completed and dedicated in 967, Banteay Srei was the only major temple at Angkor not built by a king - it was constructed by one of king Rajendravarman's counsellors, Yajnyavahara, who it is said was a scholar and philanthropist.

Former name
Originally, the temple was called Tribhuvanamahesvara — great lord of the threefold world named after the central image, in this instance a Shaivite linga. Centered around the temple was the town of Isvarapura. The modern name, Banteay Srei — "citadel of the women" or "citadel of beauty" — is thought to refer to the intricacy of the carving and the tiny dimensions of the architecture.

A feeling of peace
As I walked towards the temple, I was struck with awe at such beauty. Stepping over the bricks and entereing the first arch, I placed my left hand on the cool sandstone. As I stood there with my hand on the brick, I felt a feeling of peace come over me. My cares seemed to disappear and I felt one with the universe. I no longer felt hot and bothered, the heat didn't worry me and there was an equilibrium and serenity in me. Inhaling deep breaths, I just stood there, for how long I do not know. A lady passed by me but still I stood. After some time I withdrew my hand and slowly made my way further inside.

Above: Carved arch
The carvings are so delicate, it was said it could not have been carved by men - only a woman would create something so dainty. Banteay Srei is built of hard red sandstone, laterite and brick were only used for the enclosure walls and some structural elements. The temple is known for the beauty of its sandstone lintels and pediments.

Pediments and lintels
A lintel is a horizontal beam across the gap between two posts. Some lintels are structural supporting the weight of the superstructure, while others are purely for decoprative purposes. The lintels at Banteay Srei are beautifully and intricately carved.

A pediment is the triangular space above a rectangular doorway or opening. The pediments at Banteay Srei, are fairly large compared to the size of the doorways and have a sweeping gabled shape. Whole scenes of mythological subject-matter are depicted on these pediments, this was the first time in Khmer architecture that it had been done.

Above: Temple
On the pediment, Shiva Nataraja is depicted on the eastern gopura of the inner enclosure wall. Between the gopuras on the collapsed inner wall are the buildings of the inner enclosure: a library in the south-east corner and another in the north-east corner, and in the centre the sanctuary set on a T-shaped platform 0.9 m high. Besides being the most extravagantly decorated parts of the temple, these have also been the most successfully restored, this is in part due to the durability of the sandstone and the small scale.

Above: Guarding the temple
Within the inner enclosure, there are three sanctuary towers. The central sanctuary is slightly taller that the other two, and is linked to a mandapa (ante-chamber). Both the north and central sanctuary are dedicated to Shiva while the south sanctuary is dedicated to Vishnu. Different guardian figures, usually of a human body with an animal head such as the lion, garuda or monkey, protect each of these sanctuaries

Above: Hanuman
On the right - monkey-headed statues guarding the antechamber of the central sanctuary.
The monkey is Hanuman, the king of the forest dwellers (monkeys) and an important figure in the Hindu epic the Ramayana.
The legend is about the kidnapping of Sita, by the evil king of Lanka (sri Lanka) and subsequent war to rescue her. Its the original story of good defeating evil. Every Hindu knows this saga, and its a great piece of literature. This story is told in bass relief at Angkor wat. Buddhism is an offshoot of Hinduism and many deities are still revered and displayed.

Above: Spindled windows

Above: Carving of a kala and Siva
A kala is a mythical creature representative of time and of the god Siva. Through the openings, you can see the inner courtyard.

Above: Burning of Khandava Forest
Khandava Forest was an ancient forest to the west of Yamuna river. Arjuna and Vasudeva Krishna cleared this forest by setting up a fire.

Above Floor plan of Banteay Srei

62. Banteay Srei - 1

Banteay Srei - Lady Temple

After leaving Ta Prohm, I think my driver thought we were going back to town, but I wanted to see Banteay Srei - this was one temple I really, really wanted to see. We set off and after a number of turns the road became quite bumpy. Mistakenly I thought it was only 12 or 13 kms from town, little did I realise it was actually around 36 kms! After some time, I badly needed to find a loo, but the tuk tuk kept going bumpety bumpety bump - let me tell you, riding along a very bumpy road full of potholes with a full bladder is not the most enjoyable of things to do. As I said, I thought the distance was much shorter than it was. Had I known, I'd have told the driver to stop long beforehand. I did actually say towards the end, could we stop for the lades toilet but he said no, no, there's toilet at the temple.

I can laugh about it now, but at the time it was not a laughing matter.☺

Above: Shops at Banteay Srei
Arriving at Banteay Srei, my driver said he'd meet me at the restaurant. I bolted for the ladies - you had to pay to use them but there wasn't anyone on duty. After sitting and drinking the inevitable bottle of water, I set off. There are two long rows of shops and stalls.

Above: Crossing the bridge
The white building with the red roof is the public toilet block - quite a few people sat on the verandah in the shade. Several ladies came up to me selling scarves but having learnt my lesson the day before, I just smiled, shook my head and politely said, "No thank you". You can see the first row of shops to the left.

You cross over the bridge and turn right. Then it's a fair walk down a long red earth dusty path which seemed to shimmer in the heat of the middle of the day.

Above: Pathway and temple
At the end of the first path you turn left as the road winds its way down - a canopy of trees here and there to break the sun. As I neared the temple, there were four or five locals on the left hand side. I spoke with one chap, and he said when I came back to tell him what I felt.

In the above collage, the lower left photo is of the inner courtyard, the photo on the right is the entrance.
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