Banteay Chhmar Temple is 65 km 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.
Eastern entrance to Banteay Chhmar Temple
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 Phasa 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. Local taxi drivers will also make this trip. The road to Banteay Chhmar has now been paved (updated August 2016).
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 from Sisophon to Banteay Chhmar is $25. In the low season (updated August 2016) a taxi with only a few people (2 or 3) can be negotiated for $5 per person; there is no need to let the driver squeeze 6 people into the taxi.
It takes approximately 1 hour to 1 and a half 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 a 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.
Taxi drivers in Sisophon will also offer private full day trips. They will drive you to Banteay Chhmar, you can explore the main temple complex for a couple hours while they wait and then they will drive back to Sisophon. Though this is possible, it is strongly recommended to stay in Banteay Chhmar to support the local community and to ensure time to see the small surrounding temple sites.
- Private taxis and minibuses for groups can also be arranged through tour operators, transportation companies and guesthouses in Siem Reap or Phnom Penh. You should contact the CBT if you need advice or help about these options.
- Self-drive motos can be rented in Sisophon at the Golden Crown Guesthouse ($10 / day)
- Motos with driver (motodop $10-$12) and tuk-tuks ($30 / day) can also be hired in Sisophon. These are not the most comfortable options and are not recommended.
- There are no buses to 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. To reach Banteay Trop it is best to hire the CBTs moto-taxi (a scooter with a driver and room for one passanger on the back). The cost for a moto-taxi to Banteay Trop will cost $5 while hiring a driver & scooter for the day will cost you $10. These prices are current as of August 2016 - please look up the CBT webiste for more current pricing.
- Banteay Chhmar Temple is one of Cambodia’s most important and least understood temples from the great Angkorian era. The temple is similar in style to Bayon Temple and may have originally had over 50 towers within its main enclosure. There are some stunning bas-reliefs of Khmer domestic and military life from the Angkorian era.
32-armed Avalokitesvara at Banteay Chhmar
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 around than 1500 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. Fee collect can be fairly informal and you will sign into a book, with your name, the date, nationality, etc. You will not be given an actual ticket, but it seems it is only the one individual in charge of ticketing tourists so he can check that you are already down in his book if you give him your name (assuming you need mutliple days of access). There is only a ticket booth on the east entance to the main temple complex, though he will walk around or scooter around the site to see who is around. You are unlikely to be challenged for a proof of payment (or even see anyone else) at any of the satellite temples.
- Satellite Temples: There are nine satellite temples--two in each of the four cardinal directions--plus Yeay Chou Temple to the southeast. Although most are signed from the road that encircles the main temple moat, lack of trails, absence of further signs, and jungle growth make the majority very difficult to find on your own--a guide is hugely worthwhile to locate them! Ta Prohm Temple is the easiest to find on your own, a short walk south of the main temple at the sign, then look to your left. A small path pushes through the underbrush. Ta Prohm has an excellent 4-sided, Bayon-syle face tower. Samnang Tasok Temple is about 1km west of the main temple and can be reached by walking or bicycle, but you'll need a guide or someone at the nearby police post to point out the foot trail to it. Or if you look at a satellite map such as Google Maps it should be pretty easy to figure out. It is possible but a bit difficult to find on your own. As of August 2016 the main (and really only) access point from the east side of the moat is no longer bridged as it has fallen apart planks can be seen sunken into the swamp area. The water is less than knee deep so just take off your shoes and walk through the swamp to the temple. As of August 2017, a guard was stationed here who would walk with you at the temple. This rather large satellite temple also bears Bayon-style face towers and is covered in vines and jungle. Getting here and the site itselfs will make you feel like Indiana Jones. Between the west side of the moat and Samnang Ta Sok temple in a direct line is Ta Nem Temple which is also a Bayon tower-style temple with several sides still intact. Ta Plang Temple, just north of Ta Prohm is collapsed and overgrown. To reach it in August 2016 it was necessary to push through some bush for a short distance from the dirt road. Ta Em is just a short distance (no more than 100m) from the west end of the the main temple complex. There is a brown sign indicating the turn off from the main road. These ruins were mostly a collapsed pile of stone down a dirty garbage filled lane way. There is no sign to Chen Chem Trey Temple, but it is about 630 meters straight north from the northern entrance to Banteay Chhmar Temple along a small oxcart/moto path. It features two sides of a Bayon-style tower. Vegetation is not cleared and the grounds of the ruin is overgrown, and a guide is necessary; or it may be possible to find using a satellite map. The overgrown stones of the ruins are difficult to see and it may be dangerous to walk on them. The approach road is best done on foot because of rough or sandy sections; also, it can be difficult to reach in the rainy season. On the way to Chen Chem Trey Temple, look on the right at 180 meters from the main temple for Yeay Kom Temple. Other temples can be fun to search out, too, but may be impractical to visit: Mebon Temple on an island in the Baray is said to be collapsed and I was told there wasn't any way to reach it.
- Mebon Baray: Mebon Baray is a large reservoir constructed during the building of Banteay Chhmar Temple. It served as the primary water supply for the inhabitants of the time. The area now is protected from development and is home to a variety of birds. The baray stretches nearly 1,000m x 1,500m. There is a temple on the island in the middle of the baray, but access is likely to be difficult. Mebon Baray is 600m from the CBT office and can reached by walking or biking.
- Pol Pot Baray: This baray was constructed during the brutal Pol Pot regime under, as you can imagine, horrific conditions. Today, the baray is an important water source for the villagers in the area. The baray is about 3km north of Banteay Chhmar and is best visited by moto, though biking may be possible during the dry season. It can be difficult to reach in the rainy season.
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.
- Temple Tour with Tour Guide: The CBT has English-speaking tour guides available. They can give you a temple tour, take you to satellite temples, and will also help you with your homestay arrangements and transportation needs (and anything else you may need help with). $10 per group of 5.
- Traditional Music: A group of local musicians playing traditional songs and instruments. This is often performed in the temple at night during dinner (weather permitting). $15 per group.
- Rice Flattening: A traditional way of rice preparation for special occasions. You can help prepare the rice and enjoy tasting it afterwards. $10 per group.
- Ox-cart Tour: Take a 1-hour tour around Banteay Chhmar village stopping at various sites and learning about local Khmer life. $7 per group of 4.
- Kuyon (powered tractor) Trip: Kuyons can be hired to take visitors to the barays, or to Banteay Torp Temple for sightseeing and picnics. $10 per group of 10.
- Motos: Currently, the CBT does not rent motos to visitors. You can ride around Banteay Chhmar with a CBT member for $7. A trip to Banteay Torp (see below) will cost $5 and an all-day moto tour will cost $10.
- Meals: See the Eat section
- Soieries du Mékong (silk centre), (Highway 56, c.700 m from the CBT office). M-F 08:30-12:00 and 13:30-17:00. high-quality silk products made by young women trained in the art of silk weaving since 2001. Tours and try weaving yourself. 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.
- Silk products from the Soieries du Mekong Silk Center.
- The CBT office has a few wooden handicrafts (sculptures, candlesticks etc.) made by local villagers. Inquire if you would to see these, or to go visit the craftsmen’s homes and shops.
- The small market area has necessities such as toothpaste, soap, shampoo and very basic medicines.
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.
- CBT Restaurant: This is your best option. The CBT has a kitchen and restaurant area where meals can be served. The CBT cooks have been trained in food safety and hygiene. Picnics and dinner in the temple can also be arranged through the CBT. Breakfast $2; Lunch and Dinner $4. There is an extra supplement for picnics and dinner in the temple depending upon group size, location and transportation needed. All meals are large and nobody will go hungry based on the portions they provide.
- Chan Rom Restaurant: In the market area, this is the restaurant under the big tree across from the moat and taxi stand. There is no menu. Basic Khmer food (look in the pots) and generally clean. Meals $1.00 - $2.50. Open for breakfast and lunch.
- There is also a larger indoor restaurant directly behind the Chan Rom restaurant.
- There is a fairly modern Cambodian restaurant on the road heading west from the northwest corner of the moat.
- Market stalls: There are various market stalls and sellers selling bobor (rice soup), cane juice, grilled corn, desserts and other Khmer delicacies (crickets, anyone?). Not necessarily the most hygienic choice, but worth trying, if you are on a very tight budget. Meals $0.50 - $2.
- If you forget to book meals with the CBT Restaurant, the family at your homestay may volunteer to cook meals for you at their home. They will generally charge you a reasonable price depending on what they cook.
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! The other dinner options are to order in advance from the CBT or your homestay.
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 9 homestays and 27 rooms. Each room has 1 double bed. The homestays are clean and basic with cotton sheets, blankets, pillows and mosquito nets. All of the homestays have western-style (sitting) toilets and showerheads. There are no rooms with air-conditioning. The homestays have either electricity (see below) or battery-powered fans that can be run throughout the night. Flashlights and candles are provided, as well. There are 4 homestays along the road that runs south from the restaurant; other homestays are scattered in nearby villages.
As of February 2015, Banteay Chhmar is being connected to the electrical grid. The 4 homestays in the South Village all now have 24/7 electricity with the other villages to be connected in the next few months.
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 97 516 5533 or +855 12 435 660
CBT-GHF Coordinator Tath Sophal can be reached at: +855 97 723 7605 or +855 12 237 605
CBT Website: visitbanteaychhmar.org 
A popular half-day trip or a detour on the way to or from Banteay Chhmar is to Banteay Torp Temple. If traveling on your own, look for a red gateway (maybe only a Khmer sign) on the east side of the Sisophon-Banteay Chhmar highway about 7km south of Banteay Chhmar; head east 4.6km on this dirt road and go past a village to a large baray on your left; a faded sign may point the way right (south) 300 meters and you'll see the temple; then turn left 500 meters to parking. The temple consists of three soaring and precarious looking towers teetering on the verge of collapse. The nearby modern temple 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. You could also bicycle in the dry season.
|This is a guide article. It has a variety of good, quality information including hotels, restaurants, attractions, arrival and departure info. Plunge forward and help us make it a star!