Guide to Banteay Samrei and Kbal Spean

Banteay Samre is haunting

The temples in the eastern region of the Angkor Archaeological Park are rather isolated and often tend to be overlooked by visitors. However, those who hire a local guide will be able to explore this area safely and comfortably. While a little off the main tourist trail, the extra effort involved is more than worth it as the temples here are adorned with fine carvings.

Visitors will be able to spend plenty of time exploring these striking temples without having to push their way through the crowds or worrying about stumbling into the photographs of other visitors. And it’s a good place to check out during the peak times of sunset and sunrise for a little solitude while the major temples are swamped with people.

Exploring Banteay Samrei

Named after the ancient people of Indochina known as the Samre, Banteay Samre is one of the area’s most magnificent structures. One of the temple’s most striking features is the interior moat, which features laterite paving.

This 12th century temple has been built in the same style as the world famous Angkor Wat and this is the perfect place to beat the crowds and relax in ultimate serenity. 

Although the moat is now dry, this impressive body of water would have given the temple an ethereal air when filled with water. All of the picturesque buildings that are located around the moat are situated on a raised base. This base is also worth inspecting as it features unusual horizontal mouldings, which are decorated at points with the alluring figures of apasaras framed with lotus buds.

Exploring Kbal Spean

Some 12kms from Banteay Samre is the magical complex of Kbal Spean. Often referred to as the valley of the 1,000 Lingas, taking a trip to Kbal Spean is a must for intrepid travellers to really want to get the most out of their visit to the Angkor Archaeological Park. Situated both in and around the Stung Kbal Spean river, the stone carvings that  found here are enchanting.

Most of the stone carvings that comprise Kbal Spean depict Hindu mythological motifs such as gods and animals. Each of these stone carvings is unique however, and visitors will be able to spend plenty of time here as there are estimated to be around a thousand here in total.

Most of these stones have been dated to between the 11th and 13th centuries, making them much newer than Angkor Wat and many of its neighbouring temples. It is believed that these stone markers were placed here in order to fertilise the water that flowed from the East Baray and was used to irrigate Cambodia’s rice fields.

However, historians can only speculate over the purpose and meaning behind the sculptured images on the stones as no records have ever been discovered to shed light on the matter. It has been suggested that the gods and animals served to protect the area from harm, while other historians have hypothesised that perhaps this site also served as a place of worship. Whatever the reason behind the carvings, they are enchanting and the natural beauty of Kbal Spean makes this an excellent place to explore at length.

Those who have hired a guide in order to explore this area of the Angkor Archaeological Park should make sure that their guide speaks a reasonable level of English. Most of the guides have grown up in this region of Cambodia and are full of local knowledge.

Guides can be hired in the nearby city of Siem Reap, which is a great place to use as a base while exploring the Angkor Archaeological Park and the surrounding area. More on Siem Reap.