The area here has been fallen into the collapsing because of impact of time, the loot…, in 1992 it is added into UNESCO list. Since 2008, the World Heritage Foundation and the Cambodian Government have started efforts to preserve and develop the community. For a short time after, the Banteay Chhmar temple complex is opened for tourists to visit.
The temple of Banteay Chhmar looks like a ruin.
At the heyday of the empire, this temple complex is considered as one of the most important Khmer temples, and Banteay Chhmar is built up to homer Suryakumara, the son of King Jayavarman VII and four generals.
The temple complex includes in 8 temples, surrounded by the shadow of forests and stones, and the outstanding thing is stone towers engraved with mysterious smiling faces. People say that it depicts Jayavarman or Buddha. In addition, there are also skilled sculptures telling about the story of religion and war.
Sculpture of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara - a symbol of Banteay Chhmar
This is the famous sculpture of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara in Banteay Chhmar. Simon Warrack, stone preserver who has studied the temples of Cambodia for more than 20 years, estimates that there are hundreds of meters of carved wall collapsing over the time. This has left a mysterious question for historians and archaeologists. The atmosphere of Banteay Chhmar is the same as that of the Angkor Wat in the 1990s, according to him, when the tourism is still new. Warrack claims that with millions of people coming Siem Reap every year, the feeling of “mysterious and adventurous" which used to be attached to Angkor Wat has disappeared.
However, Banteay Chhmar, a destination far from only some hours Angkor Wat, also has only 1500 visitors every year and still brings the great feeling of spiritual experience. Warrack said that: “The discovery of the temple is like going back to another era and experiencing unique interaction, just like the battle between culture and nature”.
Seeing the scene, it seems that the nature has won. The roots of the old trees clinging to the walls are still standing firmly as being in a structure. In every corner is pergola, covering the carved ancient stones. However the most special thing here is the completely quiet space which is broken only by the sound of motorbikes from the distance, the fluttering sounds of insect wings and the singing sounds of birds.
To the residents here, the temple is not only an archaeological and cultural wonder, but it also brings the economic advantages. 23 percent of the population in Banteay Meanchey province are now living in the poverty, but it is becoming better due to the tourists paying a visit to the temple. From 2008 to 2016, the number of visitors to Banteay Chhmar jumped 112%, from 774 to 1,575, according to World Heritage Fund data.
In Banteay Chhmar temple, you can see the mysterious faces like in Bayon - Angkor Thom.
My Sao, the president of the Banteay Chhmar Tourism Association, answered the CNN that: “If we did not open the temple for visiting, maybe no tourists would come here. Currently, people can make money from opening homestay, cooking and selling handicrafts”. And in fact a 67 year old local resident here named Nil Loeun has benefited from the development of tourism thanks to the opening of a homestay near the temple. She said: “when the tourists come here and stay in my house, our lives become better”.
Along with the support of the World Heritage Foundation, Banteay Chhmar is trying to get a balance between conservation needs, sustainable access and economic development, and the benefit of the local community. Warrack does not worry about that the tourism development will affect to Banteay Chhmar as in the case of Angkor Wat. To him, this is because that people who have come to the temple is the ones coming to Cambodia's temples for the second or third time. And they will enjoy and want to explore.
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