I'm so torn about Banteay Srei. It takes over an hour to get to by tuk tuk, it costs a lot (admission is included with the Angkor Pass, but the tuk tuk costs $25 for the day because it's far away), and it's relatively small. And especially now that you can't walk in and through everything, it's harder to justify. In the end, I think you have to suck it up and just go, and be a little upset and a little glad you did.
Of all the things that have changed in the last decade, this has changed the most. It used to be a small temple in the middle of nothing that hardly anyone visited because it was so far away. Now, it's a major complex and a must-see temple for all the big tourist buses. There's a huge parking lot and welcome center, an interpretation center explaining reliefs and carvings and various scenes, and gift shops, bathrooms, and other amenities. It's definitely lost its "quaint and forgotten temple" feel.
Banteay Srei is a small complex with very short doorways and small towers. Srei means "woman" in Cambodian, which may be why it's smaller. The main draw for the temple is it's intricate carvings and reliefs.
The inner part of the complex is completely roped off and off limits now, which makes getting pictures without people easy, but it also makes it much less fun to explore.
We took the hour long bumpy ride back to Angkor, passing through cute little villages with houses on stilts and kids walking cows.
After being a little disappointed by Banteay Srei, we were happy to get to Ta Prohm, the jungle temple.
This is the famous temple that has the giant tree growing right out of the corner of the building. Except now it's roped off and the closest you can get is a viewing platform in front of it.
The main complex was actually under construction. It appears that they're putting it back together. Cranes were lifting stones and teams of workers were putting them into place. For the missing pieces, they're carving new stone to fit, complete with new reliefs to match the old ones. Again, I'm torn. Yes, Of course I've wondered what this would have looked like before it was in ruins. And I'm sure it will be magnificent once they finish the reconstruction and restoration work. And it's putting a lot of locals to work, which is truly great. But I feel like it makes the temple less real. If part of it was made in the 11th century, but other parts were built in 2013, it feels like it's no longer an ancient ruin. It makes it fake, like an imitation of the real thing.
Luckily, Ta Prohm is a huge complex, and once you get through the first part under construction, it's back to normal.
Other famous trees are blocked off by ropes as well...
...but others are open.
We explored for over two hours, grabbed a bag of fresh pineapple...
...and then hopped on the tuk tuk to go to the next temple on the list.
This is a smaller mountain temple that is pretty quick to explore. I was really happy that they didn't have new staircases here, and we got to climb the steep stone original stairs. Only when we got to the top, we realized that wasn't the right way up.
We ended up spending a half hour here, most of which was spent trying to get pictures like these.
It's funny because from the ground, the people couldn't see Isa, so all they saw was me balancing on one foot on a staircase for about ten minutes.
We stopped at Angkor Wat for sunset but left (by mistake) before the sky really lit up. We caught this on the drive home.