20 July 2018

To The Temple Of Women

Nobody here should be impressed with me. (Actually, I don't think anybody should be impressed with me.)  But the people I've talked to all seem to look up to me, and not because I'm taller than they are.  

Sometimes it's because I'm a professor (university lecturer, actually), as educators and, more important, education are revered here because so many can't get it, or get enough.  A couple of people were in awe when I did something a lady isn't supposed to do:  reveal my age.  One woman--about whom I'll say more later--said her mother is ten years younger and "looks older."  Days spent in hard, repetitive tasks in the sun, heat and humidity will do that to you. And then there are those who think I'm other-worldly because I live in New York City.

Sokhana (sp?), who works at Green Park Village, the hotel where I'm staying, was simply astounded that I rode a bike about 85 kilometers.  She simply had to tell her co-workers, the manager and everyone about it.  If you've been reading this blog, you know that I've done much longer rides than that.  If anything, if they want to admire me, it should be for going that distance (about 53 miles) on the bike I borrowed from the hotel.  Yes, that one. And, perhaps, that someone from a temperate climate pedaled through the heat, humidity and rain (late in the afternoon).

I could have taken the tuk-tuk.  I'm sure the driver would have known how to get to the Banteay Srei temple.  But I simply felt like riding.

The town and district are named for Banteay Srei, hence the name of the Butterfly Centre I mentioned in yesterday's post.  My ride took me into the countryside, much like the PURE bicycle tour I took.  A curious visitor ambled up to the side of the road:

Just meters away, a farmer waded through a rice paddy, barefoot.  His manner of growing the grain, and the ways in which he tended the cow (if indeed the cow was his) probably don't differ much from those of farmers at the time the Banteay Srei temple was built, in the 10th Century CE.

The temple is known as the "Citadel of Women."  There are indeed many carvings of female figures, but they are mainly divine nymphs or celestial dancing girls knows as aspara or minor female deities, shown standing and called devata. 

The real reason why it's known as "The Citadel of Women," though, would not pass today's standards of political correctness:  It's because of the temple's small size, at least compared to Angkor Wat or Bayon, and the intricacy of its carvings, which have survived remarkably well.  

That detail was possible, in part, because most of the temple was built from red sandstone, which lends itself to such work and at times looks like wood. So, although it is relatively small, the reddish color and those details, visible from a pretty fair distance, give Banteay Srei a striking, unique experience.  You might say that if Angkor Wat is the virtuoso and Bayon is the show-stopper, then Banteay Srei is the crowd-pleaser.

And, yes, you can enter it with a valid Angkor Wat pass. 

On my way back, I passed the Butterfly Center and stopped at the Landmine Museum, but not to look at the exhibits.  The young woman at the admission desk remembered me and allowed me in when I asked to see another young woman who works in the gift shop.  An Youn and I had a very friendly talk when I first visited, and she really liked the pendant I was wearing.  This time, I gave it to her.  Rarely has anyone been so happy for such a small favor from me.

Of course, I didn't tell her the real reason I gave it to her:  I was trying to lighten up the load for the rest of my ride back to the hotel! ;-)

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