Cambodia November-December 2016 (21 photos)
After my 2 previous posts about the blue Mountains of Sydney, we return to Cambodia.
The temple of Banteay Srei is often referred to as The Pink Temple, due to the pinkish hue of the local sandstone used to build it.
It was built as a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva in the mid 10th century.
It is only a small temple on a somewhat miniature scale, yet the refinement of its carvings reached a level not found in any other Khmer period temple.
It is considered to be a jewel of Khmer temple art.
As you may appreciate, there is an active program to maintain this temple.
The temple is about an hour’s drive northeast of Siem Reap.
There is so much detail to appreciate and enjoy at this temple with carvings such as these on most walls and as in this case, above doorways.
Built in the mid 12th century, Banteay Samre is important for its iconography. Its pediments and lintels depict many mythological scenes, some rarely seen in other temples. It is believed to have been a Hindu temple.
These photos suit Paula’s Traces of the Past challenge nicely.
Prasat Preah Vihear
The drive north from Siem Reap to the border with Thailand took maybe 3 to 4 hours, including a breakfast stop; I don’t remember exactly. The Dangrek Mountain range marks that border. If you look carefully enough, you might catch a glimpse of the temple complex of Preah Vihear at the peak of the mountain on the right.
The temple is situated atop a 525 metre (1,722 ft) cliff in the Preah Vihear province of Cambodia. To reach the peak, you must report to the office at the base camp and pay a fee. You are then assigned your own driver and 4WD army-style traytop truck for the steep ascent to the peak. Sitting in the open tray back I thought I was going to fall out as the climb got steeper and every time we hit a bump. My knuckles went white as I gripped the bars to stay in the tray. All good fun for someone who lives in a country where sitting in a car without a seatbelt is illegal. Don’t worry, your driver and truck wait for you at the village near the top to take you back down.
Prasat Preah Vihear is an ancient Hindu temple complex first built during the 9th century.
As a key location of the Khmer empire’s spiritual life, it was supported and modified by successive kings and so bears elements of several architectural styles from successive centuries over an area of about 800 metres length. Preah Vihear is also unusual among Khmer temples in being constructed along a long north-south axis, rather than having the conventional rectangular plan with orientation toward the east.
In July 2008, Prasat Preah Vihear was declared Cambodia’s second UNESCO World Heritage site (after the Angkor Archaeological Complex in Siem Reap).
In case you’re wondering, yes this temple was used as a base by the Khmer Rouge.
As with many of the temples, it is still a place of active worship.
With a view south across Cambodia for as far as the eye can see, Prasat Preah Vihear has the most spectacular setting of all the temples built during the six-centuries-long Khmer Empire. That sign and rope was all that separated me from the drop below. Needless to say, the thought NEVER crossed my mind.
And with further regard to personal safety and security, my guide strongly suggested I not wander too far off the paths and the main complex. Of all the temples, landmines are still a consideration here given the past and more recent history.
Cambodia and Thailand have been sparring over ownership of Prasat Preah Vihear for centuries. In 1962, following a dispute between Thailand and Cambodia over ownership, the International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled that the temple is in Cambodia. Despite this, a fresh Cambodian–Thai border dispute began in June 2008 involving armed conflict and loss of life. On 11 November 2013, the International Court of Justice declared in a unanimous decision that its 1962 judgment had awarded all of the promontory of Preah Vihear to Cambodia and that Thailand had an obligation to withdraw any military, police, or guard forces stationed in that area.
As a continuing security measure, Cambodia maintains a police presence at the temple. My guide expressed a fear that should the Yellow Shirt Movement in Thailand assume control again, a fresh border conflict will begin, as that Movement was instrumental in the 2008 border dispute. Cambodia is a country that has long been troubled by wars and is currently in a long desired peaceful phase of its history. Another armed conflict is the last thing they need or want.