Difference between revisions of "Banteay Chhmar"
Revision as of 07:22, 11 July 2012
Banteay Chhmar Temple is 65km north of Sisophon on Highway 56. The Banteay Chhmar Community-Based Tourism (CBT)  group provides homestays, English-speaking tour guides, meals, activities, tour packages, booking services and transportation resources for individuals and tour groups. In 2010, Banteay Chhmar won the ‘Hidden Treasures Cambodia’ Destination Award.
Banteay Chhmar Temple and its nine satellite temples form one the great temple complexes from the Angkorian era. The temple was constructed by King Jayavarman VII in the late 12th century. The temple complex is one of the largest from the Angkorian era and is one of only two sites outside of Bayon Temple bearing the enigmatic Bayon-style face towers. Banteay Chhmar Temple is currently undergoing a multi-year conservation project by Global Heritage Fund (GHF) and the Cambodian government is in efforts to have Banteay Chhmar listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Banteay Chhmar is most easily reached from Sisophon. Sisophon is at the junction of Highway 5 and Highway 6 and is a major transit hub that links Siem Reap, Battambang, Phnom Penh and Poipet (Thai border). There are numerous buses and taxis to/from Sisophon all day long. It should not be a problem getting to Sisophon.
From Sisophon, taxis are currently the only practical way to reach Banteay Chhmar. Taxis can be met at the Psaar Thmei (New Market) on Highway 56 (the road to Banteay Chhmar) in Sisophon. The CBT has taxis with the CBT logo on them at this taxi stand. The road to Banteay Chhmar is unpaved, but is currently undergoing improvements.
Share taxis (6 people – 4 in the back; 2 in front plus driver) are $5 per person. If you need extra legroom, you can ask to pay for 2 seats. A private taxi is $25.
In the dry season, it takes approximately 1 hour from Sisophon to Banteay Chhmar. In the rainy season, travel times can be longer depending upon the amount of rain and where it falls. The road is very rarely, if ever, completely closed.
In the unlikely event that the road is closed, Banteay Chhmar can be reached via Samraong, about 50km north. This road is in better condition, but is a much longer journey than from Sisophon. This road can also take you to the O'Smach/Chong Chom border crossing with Thailand.
The CBT will help you with making your onward travels from Banteay Chhmar.
Banteay Chhmar village, the main temple and the homestays are all in close proximity and can be easily covered on foot. Most of the satellite temples can also be reached on foot, or the CBT has bicycle rentals ($1.50 / day). There are two barays (large water reservoirs). The Meborn Baray can be walked or biked to. The Pol Pot Baray (3 km) is easier to reach by moto.
By far, the most important and spectacular bas-reliefs are the two remaining images of the Avalokitesvara on the western gallery.
The temple has suffered hundreds of years of natural decay, and more recently, was subjected to egregious acts of looting.
What remains is still truly spectacular – a remote, deserted temple overgrown with trees and forest. You will experience a sense of mystical aura and have some awesome photographic opportunities.
With less than 1000 visitors a year, you will also most likely have the temple to yourself.
Temple Entrance fee is $5 per person and is good for multi-day entrance to all the satellite temples including Banteay Torp Temple. Children under 12 are free.
The CBT provides a number of visitor activities. The CBT is comprised of local community members. All CBT members are non-salaried and only receive income from providing guest services. This includes the cooks and homestay owners, as well. The CBT also saves some money from guest services in a local community fund to help with community-wide projects such as a solid waste management disposal project.
Soieries du Mekong Silk Center
The Soieries du Mekong Silk Center is a must-see on your trip to Banteay Chhmar for its high-quality silk products, some of which is sold in Siem Reap, Phnom Penh and France. The silk center has been training young women in the art of silk weaving since 2001. You can receive a tour of the silk-making process, try some weaving yourself and buy some beautiful silk products. The silk center is open from Monday-Friday (8:30am-12pm and 1:30pm-5pm). It is on Highway 56, approximately 3/4km from the CBT office. You can also visit the affiliated Enfants du Mekong School nearby. Both are accessible by biking or walking.
There is no ATM in Banteay Chhmar. The closest ATM is in Sisophon. US Dollars, Thai Baht and Khmer Riel are all accepted in the market and by the CBT.
Being so far away from a major city makes dining options somewhat limited. Whatever is available in the market usually becomes the main meal of the day. There are no Tex-Mex, Italian or French nouvelle options here.
The market area starts closing down around 5pm, so eat early or, if you are not eating in the CBT restaurant, ask the Chan Rom to prepare a meal for later – they will!
Needless to say, there are no bars, nightclubs or swingin’ karaoke joints in Banteay Chhmar. Beer ($0.50 can) and other drinks can be bought in various shops and there are a couple of ice sellers where you can buy ice to keep your beverages chilled.
CBT Homestays: These are the only sleeping accommodations in Banteay Chhmar. There are currently 8 homestays and 19 rooms. Each room has 1 double bed. The homestays are clean and basic with cotton sheets, blankets, pillows and mosquito nets. 6 homestays have western-style (sitting) toilets and showerheads. The other 2 homestay bathrooms are expected to be upgraded this year. There are no rooms with air-conditioning.
There is only electricity from 6-11pm in Banteay Chhmar. The homestays all have electricity during this time, or use batteries. Flashlights and candles are provided, as well.
You will need a CBT member to help you with settling into your homestay since none of the homestay owners speak English and homestay reservations are done on a revolving basis so each homestay owner receives his/her fair share of guests.
Though none speak English, the homestay families are all very hospitable and welcoming. You can read their personal stories here .
Homestays are $7/per room.
There are no internet facilities. If you really need to use the internet you can ask the CBT to borrow one of their computers and/or their USB modems. Please offer a small compensation.
You can contact the CBT directly: +855 (0)97 516 5533 or +855 (0)12 435 660
CBT-GHF Coordinator Tath Sophal can be reached at: +855 (0)97 723 7605 or +855 (0)12 237 605
CBT Website: visitbanteaychhmar.org 
The most popular half-day trip is to Banteay Torp Temple. This temple is 9km south of Banteay Chhmar off of Highway 56. The temple consists of three soaring and precarious looking towers teetering on the verge of collapse. The nearby pagoda has some beautiful wall paintings. Frequently, tourists will have a picnic lunch here on their way back to Sisophon. For groups, the CBT will arrange a kuyon for transportation. Otherwise, it is best reached by moto or taxi. Bicycles are really not a good idea, especially in the rainy season.