Like Angkor Thom, the temple of Banteay Chhmar was built between 12th and 13th centuries during the reign of King, Jar Varman VII. The temple is situated in ThmarPuok District, along the National Road No 69A, around 59 Km north of the province town. Although the temple is damaged because of war and gangs of offendees stealing statues and the temple, it is an unique historical treasure: a massive, sprawling temple complex tucked away in a largely-untouched location, surrounded by lush vegetation.
The complex bears strong resemblances to Angkor Thom and other structures related to Jayavarman VII.The very mysterious temple complex clearly reflexes the image of a long – lost Khmer city. It is characterized with exotic carvings strewn in dense forest surrounding, while the occasional bird call echoes through the temple walls breaking the stillness there. It is easy to find many beautiful carvings hidden amongst the ruins and broken colonnades. BanteayChhmar temple is one of the two sites other than Angkor which has the enigmatic face – towers. Moreover, the complex consists of an outer gallery carved with bas – reliefs depicting military engagements and daily life scenes, which is similar to the renowned ones in Bayon. The bas-reliefs along the surrounding wall of the temple are some of the finest in Cambodia. Yet the stories are incomplete owing to successive looting, which continued as late as 2002. Huge sections of the outer wall have been chiseled away, and now scattered to the four winds.
The complex overlooks the east, where stands a dried bary(rectangular water reservoirs)having a temple on an artificial island in the middle.There are three enclosures, as typical. The external one, largely ruined, was 1.9 by 1.7 km and surrounded by a moat. The middle enclosure, provided with a moat too, is 850 by 800 m. It contains the main temple, surrounded by a gallery with reliefs 250 by 200 m which constitutes the third inner enclosure.
It is a pity that because of its remote location and its proximity to the Thai border, the complex has been subjected to severe looting, especially in the 1990s. In 1998, 2000 and 2002 the temple was listed by the World Monuments Fund as one of the hundred most endangered sites in all countries. Global Heritage Fund, a non- profit organization based in California is doing their best to preserve BanteayChhmar.
In the small proximity, there are dozens of smaller ruinous temples inchluding Prasat Mebon, Ta Prohm, Prom MukBuon, Yeay Choun, Pranang Ta Sok and PrasatCiem Trey. Hence, the trip to this exotic site promises tourists with a lot of excitement and memorable things.
Banteay Meanchey Town can easily be reached by National Road 56 from Phnom Penh by a 5 hour drive with bus, minibus or taxi. From Banteay Meanchey Town to Banteay Chhmar, it is another 59km by minibus or taxi which takes around 1.5 hours