Friday, May 15, 2009

The ravages of time

A makshift shrine at the site of Prasat Theat Ba Daeum with bricks and sandstone slabs
It's all been a bit hectic recently so my posts from my trip into northern Cambodia at the end of March have taken a back seat. Well now they are back. And today's helping are a few photos from three ancient temple sites that I visited in the day and 1 night I spent in Stung Treng, the largest settlement on the Mekong River before you hit the border with Laos. After the 2-hour minibus trip from Kratie, we hooked up with Nak, also known as Richie, who we'd met before, as soon as we arrived in Stung Treng. We booked a couple of rooms at the Sekong hotel and headed straight off to visit the Mekong Blue project, about 4kms out of town. Then we headed for a ruined temple site I'd seen on the EFEO map of the province, called Prasat Theat Ba Daeum. Some way off the main road and after scrambling over a series of very large sandstone boulders, we found a hole in the ground, with the inner brick walls still standing but the temple itself levelled to the ground and just a few sandstone slabs lying around a makshift shrine. It was like many temples sites I've seen scattered across the countryside that have literally been demolished either through the activities of temple robbers or by the ravages of time. Often a haphazard pile of old bricks is all there is left to show for the remains of the country's cultural heritage. The temple, believed to be one of a small group in the immediate vicinity, was sat about 500 metres from the Sesan River behind the village of Ba Daeum. Next stop was the more promising Prasat Phnom Theat, which is located in the town of Stung Treng but on a small hill directly behind the military base, so access is with the permission of the Army. We walked up the slight incline to an open-sided shrine that housed four very badly-eroded lintels, a damaged somasutra and a large pedestal and some other minor carved stones. The style on the lintels suggested 7th century. Not exactly the find I was hoping for. I did a quick recce of the surrounding bush to see if I could locate the remains of the temple itself, but without any success. Our final temple visit was to see Prasat Pros, sat on the edge of the corner where the Mekong and San Rivers meet, but some dispersed bricks were the only items of note. The rest of the afternoon was spent eating at Richie's Place, inspecting the next-door and new Golden River hotel, getting into a heated debate with the moto-mafia about our need for two motodops to transport us overland to Preah Vihear province the next morning at a sensible price and enjoying a tikalok on the riverbank before an early night. Early start the next day for our long, and potentially very difficult 'ride to hell' trek across to Tbeng Meanchey.
Nak stands above the brick-filled hole in the ground at Prasat Theat Ba Daeum
The petite pagoda at Wat Komphun, opposite the Sesan River
Boats on the Sesan River opposite Wat Komphun
A large yoni at Prasat Phnom Theat with other carved stones
A female figure inside a central medallion on one of the eroded lintels at Prasat Phnom Theat
The outline of a figure on the left and the lintel elements of the 7th century at Prasat Phnom Theat
A large but damaged somasutra-headed water channel at Prasat Phnom Theat
A view from Phnom Theat down to the military base and the San River beyond
Scattered bricks and a small wooden shrine are all that remain of Prasat Pros
A beautiful view of the Mekong and San Rivers where they join, just in front of Prasat Pros

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