I've not been there myself, but I know most people visit there either on a tour out of Siem Reap, of they go to Sisophon first and organise a moto to go there and back independently (there is accommodation in Sisophon).
The latter is the better option in my opinion as you overnight in Sisophon first, than head north to Banteay Chhmar at the crack of dawn so that you see it in the morning (when the light is good for pics etc), then return to Sisophon for a late lunch and then onto Battambang.
Report back on how you go -- I've only heard terrific things about the site.
There is now a community tourism project in Banteay Chhmar where they provide excellent (but basic) homestays in traditional wooden stilted houses. Definately worth spending a night there, then you get both a temple sunset and sunrise all to yourself, plus they can arrange a picnic dinner for you in the grounds of the temple by flickering torch light - a great experience... Once you arrive look for the AGIR office, the village is very small so not difficult to find.
#3 steveatkins has been a member since 15/6/2007. Posts: 33
Thanks for your suggestion, steveatkins. We will definitely stay overnight and enjoy an evening in the village. :)
#4 shumium has been a member since 28/12/2007. Posts: 11
The three of us just got back from a month long trip to SE Asia. One of our stops was Banteay Chhmar. We took a bus from Siem Reap and got off at Sisophon. As soon as we got off the bus we were approached by moto drivers. In the end, we agreed to hire their buddy, who was a taxi driver, to bring us to Banteay Chhmar at the rate of $15USD.
The nearly two-hour ride to Banteay Chhmar was rather bumpy and we were glad that we took taxi over moto. We would be covered in dust if we chose the latter option. There was this newly established community tourism in Banteay Chhmar which offers homestay in one of the 6 local villagers’ homes. They provide meals and tour guide if needed. There was very little information we could find from the internet regarding this organization (http://ccben.org/Leftlet/Banteaychhmar.jpg). If you would like to book a tour, please contact Sok Sophea (firstname.lastname@example.org) or their local project coordinator, Mr. That Sophal, at 012 237605.
So back to our story. We got there in the late afternoon and the CCBEN coordinator came to greet us at the office. The taxi driver did not leave because he insisted that we had agreed to pay him $50, not $15! He even threatened that he would call the police if we refuse to pay him the full amount he demanded. Fortunately, the coordinator helped us settle the whole matter and the taxi driver finally agreed to the rate $20. The coordinator (his name is Moa Si) explained to us later that the normal rate of traveling between Sisophon and Banteay Chhmar was only $15. He also reminded us that in the future we should only look for a taxi with a star logo because they charge you at a fair rate.
Moa Si brought us to a homestay not too far from Banteay Chhmar temple. The homestay was clean and their squat toilet was spotless. But you have to keep in mind that this is a rural town and there is no electricity. They provide you a bottle of water, a candle, and mosquito coil incense. If you want to clean yourself, you will have to go to the moat! After we dropped off our backpacks, we walked around the village and saw the villagers running daily errands. Most of them were very friendly. A few of them were trying to talk to us but our limited Cambodian language skills got us no where! Oh well, a smile is always a friendly exchange.
Moa Si and his crew made us a simple dinner that evening – and they cooked so much for us that there was no way we could finish all the food. During our dinner Moa Si gave us a lot of details of their organization and how they used their earnings to improve the moat around the temple and help the local community. From what we understood their community based tourism was started not too long ago and they were still in the stage of perfecting their service. But I have to say that Moa Si was an excellent host and he went all the way to ensure that we had a great time in Banteay Chhmar.
Moa Si and his taxi driver came to pick us up from the homestay the next morning and brought us to the CCBEN office for breakfast. (He told us that all their chefs were trained in some renowned restaurants in Siem Reap – but don’t get too excited – the dinner they provided was salty scrambled eggs and stir-fried vegetables.) After breakfast he brought us to the Temple of Banteay Chhmar, which is just right across the street from the CCBEN office. He told us that the 25-year restoration project of Banteay Chhmar was started about 4 months ago. Judging by the fact that there were so many collapsed walls and overgrown vegetations, it will be a huge undertaking to restore the temple.
When we were there everything was in its “natural state”. It was quite an adventure to climb over the collapsed masonry to get from one temple to another (I don’t recall there was any clear path – you will be glad that you have your hiking boots on!). Yes, this place was a true hidden jewel and was hardly busy – we saw their admission record and found that the last group of tourists who came before us was five days ago! Needless to say, you pretty much have the whole place to yourself.
Moa Si gave us vivid stories of the bas-reliefs – we were fortunate to have him as our guide.
After the visit Moa Si brought us to Banteay Torp – a temple which was built on a small hill. Stunning view and impressive towers. We were awed by the tall towers and found that there were still wood carvings on the upper portion of the towers after all these years.
If you want to experience authentic rural living and avoid the high volume of tourists in Angkor Wat, this is definitely an option. We were very pleased with CCBEN’s service and would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone who is considering going there.
#5 shumium has been a member since 28/12/2007. Posts: 11