Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Wat watching on the Mekong

A thick-set stone lion, a relic from its 7th century beginnings, at Wat Sasar Muoy Roy
Buoyed by our successful early morning dolphin-watching activities at Kampi, about 15kms north of Kratie, Tim and I and our respective motodops, headed further north and called into Wat Sandan on our way to Sambor and Wat Sasar Muoy Roy, the 100-pillar pagoda, that's actually 116 pillars but who's counting. The ride along the road hugging the east bank of the Mekong River was a very pleasant journey as we passed through villages, returning waves and hello's before pulling into the grounds of our target destination, some 35kms north of Kratie. Now for a history lesson. Wat Sasar Muoy Roy was built on the site of an 7th century former royal palace called Sambhupura and was one of four temples, each facing a different direction; Sasar Muoy Roy faces north and was built in the 16th century, when King Chan Reachea II dedicated it to the goddess of the temple, who he asked to care for the soul of his daughter, Preah Neang Varakak, who'd be swallowed by a crocodile. About 100 years into its life, the temple was struck by lightning which burnt 22 columns and turned the face of the main Buddha statue black. Now reduced to 78 colums, the pagoda was renovated again at the end of the 1990s and is now wider, longer and has 116 colums for good measure. Of the other three temples, one has disappeared, another, the wooden Preah Vihear Kuk (and faces east), stands 300 metres east and is currently being renovated, whilst Preah Vihear Laos (faces west) is in town and lies unattended and abandoned. Back at Sasar Muoy Roy, I found a stone lion and an inscribed stone with eight lines of Sanskrit writing being attended by a couple of laymen, next to the gold and pink stupa of the deceased princess, before we visited Preah Vihear Kuk, which was a decaying ruin the last time I visited it nine years earlier, and a quick chat with some young monks. Restoration efforts were in full flow at Vihear Kuk, with the ceiling paintings being retouched and the wooden columns and roof having already received expert attention. A couple of kilometres north of Sambor are the villages of Don Meas and Baay Samnom and closeby are a series of five sites where groups of brick temples once stood, but where little remains and even the residents had no idea where the piles of bricks were located. So instead of spending hours scouring the undergrowth, much of which was underwater, we sat down with a group of women and children to practice our limited Khmer and their non-existent English, which is always fun, before starting our ride back.
A ceiling painting in need of a spring-clean at Wat Sandan
Wat Sasar Muoy Roy, a stone's throw from the Mekong River and its 116 pillars
The re-painted stupa of Preah Neang Varakak, eaten by a crocodile
An unusual Neak Ta at Wat Sasar Muoy Roy is well-armed!
Preah Vihear Kuk is undergoing extensive renovation
The re-painted pediment above the east-facing entrance at Preah Vihear Kuk
Preah Vihear Kuk's ceiling paintings getting touched up, complete with wooden scaffolding
The central shrine and wooden columns at Preah Vihear Kuk
The attractive and pretty location of Preah Vihear Kuk, as well as stairs that go nowhere!
The unattended and abandoned Preah Vihear Laos, in the town of Sambor

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Sir,

I appreciate your contribution to this site. However, I have small request to you to correct some informations:

1-There was no Cambodian King name Ang Chan Reachea II. I heard long ago about this mistake in connection with the king's name. The mistake derived from an unreliable source which is a tale book.

2.In The History books of Cambodia, both School book and official History book published by the royal palace before 1970, we learned that there was one powerful and famous king named Ang Chan I (his popular name known as Preah Chan Reacha) who defeated rebellion Sdech Kan and took back some provinces from Siam). During his reign the whole Kampuchea Krom (currently south VN) and Nokor reach Sima (Nakon Ratcha Sima) was a Cambodian province shared border with Siam. The word Nokor Reach Sima simply meant border marking.

Kindly correct it. Thanks

October 10, 2010 at 2:46 AM  

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