Within Angkor Archaeological Park
Daily: 7:30am – 5:30pm
Admission: Included in Angkor Pass ($37/$62/$72)
Washroom On Site: No
A teaser for the similarly styled behemoth at Angkor Thom, definitely visit this site before going to Bayon temple.
Typically paired with a visit to the reservoir across the street, Banteay Kdei is a small temple with an uncomplicated layout that should take you around an hour to explore. Just like how Angkor Wat spoils Banteay Samre, Banteay Kdei is best enjoyed if you haven’t yet been to Bayon temple.
A well-preserved face welcomes you at the eastern entrance gate. This temple is built in the same Bayon architectural style and will be your first glimpse of peaceful smiling stone heads if you’re early into your trip, just as we were. Not having yet seen the grandeur of Bayon, we thought these were so neat and spent a lot of time admiring them. Also here is usually a talkative vendor selling Angkor guides. Before hurrying through the gate to dodge her, check out the details just off to the sides. In niches are Apsaras, and a Garuda is carved into the corner of the gate. I’m not sure if there’s a matching one on the other side, but this one is off to the right.
Once through the gate, there is a raised plaza with lion statues and naga balustrades at its border. Lots of tall trees provide good shade over this spot, assuming it’s not midday. It may look like there are a lot of benches here for you to sit, but don’t sit on these! These stone slabs are the banister around the perimeter of the plaza that has broken off in places, making them look like well-placed spaces to park your butt. An employee will probably shoo you off them if you tried. There is a cross-shaped pathway that is slightly raised from the rest of the plaza – sit on this instead and rest, plan your next move, or enjoy a packed snack.
The first building off of the plaza is a shrine with a Buddha and maybe some worshippers inside that you’ll have to carefully step around. Go around the back of the Buddha and you’ll be spat out on a short causeway to the hall of dancers.
The hall of dancers is extensive for a temple of this size and you’ll spend a good chunk of time here wandering through the archways or lining up all the columns for a perfect shot. Some of the pillars will have the namesake Apsara dancers carved onto them, but most are plain restored blocks.
On the other end of the hall of dancers is a longer causeway in a cloister with the shell of a library off to the side. A small gallery enclosure around gopuras will signal the edge of the complex but pass through the gate so you’re on the exterior of the temple. You can get a good view of Banteay Kdei that is much nicer than what you see on the opposite side.
I would strongly suggest that you do this temple within your first couple of days before hitting the big name temples. Everything noteworthy about this site is just a miniature version of something similar at a grander temple. The overall small size of Banteay Kdei can be a let down if you save this site for the end of your vacation.