Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The pyramid of Koh Ker

The ruined column passageway leading from Prasat Krahom towards Prasat Thom
The complex of temples known collectively as Koh Ker was the second destination for our works' visit on Sunday, following on from our stop en route at Beng Mealea. The main heartbeat of the temples lies in Prasat Thom, the giant pyramid structure that looks more Mayan than Khmer. My Cambodian colleagues who were visiting for the 1st time were suitably impressed and proud of what their ancestors achieved. I acted as the guide as we toured the main highlight temples including one of the linga temples and some sacred rock carvings before we headed back to Siem Reap. Koh Ker, the royal capital in the 10th century, is famed for its gigantic sculptures. Re-visiting and telling the story of my first trip to Koh Ker, way back in November 2001, reminded me of my notes from my first ascent of the pyramid, though it's been closed for the last couple of years now, and access to the top is no longer possible. Here's what I wrote back then.
...I returned to Prasat Thom to watch the sunset. While Sokhom (my moto guide) took the opportunity to wash off the dust and dirt of our trip in one of the royal ponds, I carefully negotiated the rickety wooden ladders that straddled each of the terraced pyramid's seven tiers. The square pyramid is 36 metres high with the steep stairways on the east side ravaged by time and replaced by the wooden ladders to make access to the summit a little easier. From the top, the view over the surrounding forest canopy with the Kulen mountains in the far distance was simply breathtaking, enhanced by the glow of the setting sun in the west. There wasn't a great deal of room at the top, as I sat down next to some broken carvings of lions and elephants and enjoyed the peace and quiet, noticing a column of smoke rising from the village nearby. At the foot of the pyramid, I could just make out Sokhom in the deepening gloom as I cautiously made my way down the ladders to join him and we returned to the village.
I failed to mention that my descent from the top was one of the scariest moments of my travels, as I was carrying my backpack and the wooden ladders were anything but stable. I had uncontrollable shaking in my legs as soon as I touched the ground at the bottom. Very scary.
The red temple of Prasat Krahom, famed for its gigantic sculptures
A look through to the pyramid of Prasat Thom at Koh Ker
A lonely walk to the Prasat Thom pyramid for one of the Hanuman team
The 'not in use' ladders to the top of the pyramid. They are much sturdier than the originals in 2001.
The first of the linga temples at Koh Ker. Its believed a giant linga once stood on top of the pyramid.
Two of the Hanuman team read the inscription stones at Prasat Banteay Pir Choan
Sacred Buddhist figures are carved into the rockface at Trapeang Ang Khnar
This tower at Prasat Pram, engulfed by strangler figs, was believed to be a cremation structure

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