Unexpected Encounters at Banteay Srei

On the second day in Siem Reap, my tour stopped at Banteay Srei — a remarkable 10th century temple with beautiful sculptures that’s about 16 miles past the main group of temples at Angkor Wat. The temple is popular for tourists as a second day around Angkor Wat — tours usually include a few other smaller temples closer to Siem Reap.banteay srei

As we walked into the temple complex, we had our tickets checked once again. A Cambodian police officer approached me and held out what appeared to be police badges, and, I’m fairly certain, he was trying to sell them. This was the first time I have had a police officer attempt to sell me anything at a tourist destination. I walked away, confused and amused. One of the others on my tour asked if he witnessed the same thing that I did, and we laughed.

As we approached the back of Banteay Srei, there was one of numerous “landmine victims” bands (I saw these almost everywhere in Cambodia and began wondering if they were legitimate charity organizations). We stood around talking in the shade while waiting for our guide who was caught up in conversation with some others in our group — it was fine; we were enjoying the view from the shade.

It was at this point that I was approached for a picture. By a Buddhist monk. With an iPhone.

banteay srei monk
Humble monk or secret photographer?

The monk didn’t speak any English, but smiled at me, handed his phone to a fellow monk, and gestured that he’d like a picture with me. Trying to contain my laughter, I agreed. Really, how often do monks ask to take pictures of tourists? There’s just no way to say no in such a situation.

My tour companions caught sight of the situation and decided that they needed to take pictures of what was going on as well.banteay srei monks

This was more amusing than the group of Taiwanese tourists who insisted on taking about 50 photos with a few of the young New Zealand women at Prasat Bayon — they kept inviting others for photos and waving Taiwanese flags. I just laughed while listening in on the Chinese conversations.

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