I have visited many temple areas in Cambodia, and I think Banteay Chhmar is a must see. If you want to get away from the tourists, it is a great place to go, but when I was there for 2 days on a homestay in February, 2013, they were busy working on the road from Sisophon to Bantey Chhmar, so I think the buses will be soon be going there, full of people. For now, it is necessary to hire a car ( warning! don't go by motorbike unless you want to be covered in dust, and have a jarred spine!). It is, I think, about the last chance you will be able to have to go there and see the quiet, peaceful place. When I was there, I saw ( briefly) one other tourist taking pictures. All the locals stared, because I was almost the only foreigner there, but everyone smiled, and were very friendly. I was even invited that night to a " circle dance" at the Baray.
The main temple takes about half a day to see, at a good pace. The outer wall is wonderful! The pictures are magnificent! Don't pass it by. There is a road completely around it, so access to the wall is very good.
The inner temple area itself is a jumble of fallen rocks, and half- fallen buildings. Take sturdy shoes! I nearly twisted my ankle a couple times, and there are no medical facilities to speak of there at all. I would go with a guide, because the temple is in such a bad condition, it is hard to make sense of it. There are many great pictures on the remaining structures, though.
Around the temple are 9 other satellite temples. I could not access the small temple in the East Baray, but I was able to visit the other ones . It took about 5-6 hours to visit them all, by bicycle. I had a map of the temple area, which you can get from the CBT website. It is a very necessary thing, if you go alone, as I did. As it was, I got lost twice, and had to ask directions from the locals ( no one speaks English!!!. Learn some useful phrases in Cambodian!!!) A couple of the temples are really in the woods, along goat paths, and many have no signs. Just finding them is a great adventure. Most of them are fallen ruins, but a few have " Bayon Faces", or some other surprises, and if you are inquisitive, you can see some really nice things hidden away.
Take a compass, a good camera with plenty of gig space, a map! and a couple bottles of water. I did not see any snakes in the piles of rubble, but I know they are around, and I was concerned also about UXO. Be careful if you wander around, in the woods, there are no people... period, so if you get hurt, or lost, you are in REAL trouble. Take a cell phone, so at least you can call CBT for help, if you need it.
Plan to spend at least 2 days... 3 is better. And don't forget to visit Banteay Top! Have a driver take you there, it is about 30-45 minutes South of B. C. It look like it is about to fall completely. There is no ongoing restoration there at all. The modern wat next to the site is worth a look too. Beautiful paintings inside. You also get to drive by the Pol Pot Baray on the way there. It is beautiful.
Bantey Chhmar, for the moment, is for the adventurous, and daring. See it while you can, before the crowds come, because they will!
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