Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Into the countryside

A great pal and brilliant srey motodup, Sophoin
After taking part in the P'chum Ben ceremony at Wat Dei Doh in Kompong Cham city with Sophoin and her family in the morning and enjoying an early lunch, we headed out at midday along the road running parallel with the Mekong River towards Kang Meas district, though we only caught glimpses of the river when there was a break in the houses. Overnight rain had made the bumpy road muddy in places and with it being a holiday, a lot of young men on motos were racing along the track at breakneck speeds. It was easy to see why road fatalities always soar during the P'chum Ben festival period. Sophoin is a very safe moto-driver but we had a couple of close shaves where motos with three or four teenagers on board were going way too fast and where the road narrowed dangerously. Fortunately they were just close shaves and not accidents. We called into a few pagodas en route including Wat Botum Ratanak Tameah with its colourful roof, Wat Preah Theat, where I failed to find any trace of a ruined brick temple called Prasat Dambang Daek, and to see some old wall murals at Wat Svay Tahen.

At Peam Chikang, we sought directions to Wat O Trakuon (aka Wat Moni Sarawan) where a genocide memorial is located and over 30,000 victims were reportedly killed. I've already written about the stupa and the site in another posting. I met the twelve monks who live at the pagoda and chatted for a while with Kimly, a monk born in the village but now studying at Wat Koh in Phnom Penh, who'd returned to his village for the festival and whose grandparents had been killed at the site. Leaving Wat Trakuon, we returned to Peam Chikang and turned north, heading for Prey Chhor on Highway 7, some 12kms away. En route, we were temporarily held-up at a bridge where hundreds of people had gathered to swim in the river using large inflatable rubber tyres and food stalls had set-up causing a traffic jam, and nearby a stone replica of a trio of Angkorean towers had been erected to form a gateway across the road. Before we reached Prey Chhor, we took a diversion through swathes of beautifully green rice fields to Wat Kralong, where the monks and a bunch of youngsters proudly showed off an inscription stone, a boundary marker with a meditating figure carved on its side, a pedestal and some seima stones around their new vihara under construction.

From Prey Chhor, we headed west for a further 15kms before taking the road to Wat Srangae. Half a kilometre from the pagoda stands Kuk Ta Prohm, an unusual laterite prasat with a Neak Ta figure inside and surrounded by more luscious green paddy fields. At Wat Srangae itself, another Neak Ta shrine contained broken fragments around a termite mound and part of a brick wall remains upright next to the new vihara being built. Inside the vihara was an interesting linga with colourful painted figures on its sides. The pagoda was incredibly busy and noisy as hundreds of youngsters were dancing in groups to celebrate the festival. Heading back towards Kompong Cham along Highway 7, we stopped at Wat Lvea which is sat on top of laterite foundations, with a shrine to the famous legend of Preah Ko Preah Keo before reaching the city at dusk and a well-earned fruitshake.
This is what happens to Buddhists who get it wrong, at Wat Preah Theat. More photos to follow.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now's too late to regret, but I should have looked after Sophoin back in PP. She looks gorgeous! But, man, you've scared me!!! --- Tony, from Siam Reap

October 15, 2008 7:24 PM  

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