Monday, May 18, 2009

Stepping into Preah Vihear

The skeletal remnants of Gopura V at the entrance to Preah Vihear
The 5th Gopura of Preah Vihear is the entranceway to this magnificent temple, perched high on the cliff-edge of the Dangrek Mountains. For those arriving from the Cambodian side, the newly-laid access road brings you next to Gopura V and that's where you park your vehicle. If you are entering the temple from across the border with Thailand - obviously no-one is doing that at the moment as the border is covered in razor-sharp barbed-wire and is a no-man's land as the two countries continue their military standoff - then your entry to the temple will be via the great stairway of 162 steps that lead directly to Gopura V. Tim and I walked down to the foot of the stairway, passing temple cleaners and a host of off-duty soldiers sat on the steps, before we chatted to some of the families occupying the stalls at the now-deserted and closed-off market, just inside the border. The troops milling around the old border crossing seemed a little on edge and it wasn't surprising after we learnt of an attempt by heavily-armed Thai military to enter Cambodian territory just an hour before. We didn't hang around and made our way back up the stairs to the 5th Gopura. A few days later that whole market area was raised to the ground by shelling, which could've easily happened on the day we were there. I'm happy that it didn't. The top of the stairway is guarded by two powerful nagas and Gopura V is skeletal in appearance, its roof having disappeared long ago. There are distinct traces of red on the remaining gables and pillars, with the temple having been painted red for decoration in the past.
An uncrowned giant naga at the top of the stairway at Gopura V
Looking down the stairway towards the Thai border corssing with soldiers on the left
Looking up towards the two giant nagas of Gopura V, with cleaners in green on the right
Two of the lions guarding the 162 steps of the stairway
The two giant nagas at the top of the stairway
A wooden set of steps has been added to make access to Gopura V easier
A 30 metre platform at the top of the stairway
Despite notices like these, graffiti sadly stills finds its way onto the temple walls
A doorway on the southern side of Gopura V with its characteristic gabled ends
A boundary marker in the shape of a lotus bud on the causeway leading to Gopura IV
The 270 metre long causeway to Gopura IV was once flanked by 65 boundary markers on either side - today few remain



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older