Saturday, May 16, 2009

The sacred bull

Thala Borivat's sacred bull at Prasat Preak Ko
It was time to leave Stung Treng and our negotiations with the local moto-mafia had given us two motodops who knew the way overland to Tbeng Meanchey though the price was considerably higher than I'd expected. But they had us over a barrel and they knew it. What I didn't like was when we found two motodops to take us at a more realistic price, the mafia descended on them and threatened them with violence if they took us. The two motodops disppeared immediately; the mafia had maintained their control over the moto-drivers and the local pricing strategy. It left a sour taste in my mouth about the mafia and about Stung Treng in general. At 8am we caught the ferry from Stung Treng across the Mekong to its west bank and the village of Thala Borivat. There are a few small sites to visit in the village but we only had time to look in on Prasat Preah Ko, the main site, dedicated to the scared bull, a sandstone statue of which sits in front of the temple. We only had a short time as the 'ride from hell' would take us all day, and I was desperate to go to toilet after enduring an upset stomach overnight. There was a Khmer family visiting the temple, which lies at the end of the village, and they had just given some banana offerings to Nandi, the bull. The 7th century rectangular brick temple is missing its roof, and has no carvings to speak of, but the walls are sturdy with some shelf-like indentations inside the main shrine, which faces east. A Neak Ta of a wise old man holding a teapot is nearby. With my need to find the nearest bush, we left Preah Ko to begin our 11-hour marathon to Tbeng Meanchey. More on that later.
Our local wooden ferry, 5,000 riel for the moto & me, from Stung Treng to Thala Borivat
A Khmer family at Prasat Preah Ko in Thala BorivatThe front entrance, facing east at Prasat Preah Ko
Inside the central shrine with its unusual shelf-like wall indentations
The central shrine of Prasat Preah Ko - you can see the corner of a pedestal buried under the ground
A Neak Ta of a wise old man holding his teapot is located nearby

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