Monday, January 12, 2009

Thom on two wheels

This how I felt after six hours on the bike this afternoon! Actually this is a demon, known as an asura, at the South Gate of Angkor Thom.
This is just a quickie post as I'm in an internet cafe and the connection isn't the best. As I spent the morning in the office, I decided on some fresh air this afternoon to get a view of Angkor from a bicycle saddle. I never learn do I. A sedate ride to Angkor Wat would've been nice and easy but I decided to fit in as many temples as I could - of the smaller variety - to see if there are any gems hidden in the forests of Angkor Thom, and of course there are. More when I get a better connection, in the meantime, here's a few photos from this afternoon's tiring adventure.
The little-visited Preah Pithu group of temples has been a target of sculpture robbers in this failed attempt to steal these two devatas from Temple U
40 sitting Buddhas line the inside walls of the main sanctuary of Temple X in the Preah Pithu group. These Buddhas suggest a 14th century date for this temple.
The attractive forest setting of Preah Palilay has disappeared now that they've cut down the trees that sprang from its base - what a shame.
This looks like a wildlife park but it is in fact Angkor Park where the monkeys are getting cheekier by the minute. This family set upon this parked car looking for food.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andy, is the looted carving recent? I'm wondering even in this day and age, thieves still try to rob and pillage the Angkor monument? I thought Unesco is supposed to protect the Archeaological Park! Thanks for your comment.

January 13, 2009 12:54 AM  
Blogger Andy Brouwer said...

Dear Anon,
that's a good question as when I saw the attempt to hack out the two corner devatas, I thought it looked pretty recent (ie. last year or so, not last week), though I'm not an expert in stone-masonry, so couldn't be sure. The Apsara Authorities have Heritage Police to protect the temples as well as their own staff I believe, and in fact I saw at least two staff at the Preah Pithu group. Whilst its in the Angkor Thom city boundaries, its not a popular temple(s) to visit, but they still had two staff stationed there keeping an eye!
Mind you I sometimes find Apsara staff in the most remote temple sites, take today for example when I went to a temple called Prasat Banteay Ampil - that NO-ONE else ever goes to, but hey presto, a guy in Apsara's colours popped up when I arrived by moto. Anyway I digress...
Its still very important that the authrities employ these police and staff to deter would-be robbers as Angkorean carvings are very marketable and there's definitely buyers out there looking for the better pieces. Enough of the free-standing sculptures have been spirited away and out of the country and on my travels, I have seen too many defaced monuments where temple thieves have already been at work to remove the best carvings; Banteay Thom on the outskirts of Angkor readily springs to mind. Preah Khan of Kompong Svay is one of the best (or worst) examples of pillaging, where wide-scale looting took place and even caused the collapse of the central sanctuary.
So even in this day and age, given the chance, thieves would have a field day at Angkor if the police did not roam freely both day and night.

January 13, 2009 10:36 PM  
Anonymous Boone said...

Oh my god, I cannot believe that they cut those trees standing next to Prasat Preah Pailiay!!! It is, like you mentioned, such a shame!!! Those trees were what given the temple its tropical forest like serenity, and now it's gone :(. I hope that they do not try to change too much the natural setting of those temples, or else the whole ancient city of gods will lose its value and meaning...

January 14, 2009 10:50 AM  
Blogger Ron said...

It's a shame at some of the things that go on in Camboday these days. Those guards and police officers at the temples are so corrupt that they'd do anything for a buck. Sad, just sad. Seeing your pictures made me miss Cambodia so much. Thanks for posting.

January 15, 2009 5:40 AM  
Blogger john said...

Suspect that looters would merely pay the guards,easy really.

January 16, 2009 8:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Andy, the other Andy B here.
I was unaware that they had cut these trees down until I came across the image on your blog. This is crazy! The dramatic forest setting was about all this 'difficult to date' temple had going for it. I used to enjoy going here only really because it was so photogenic but now...

January 17, 2009 10:44 AM  
Blogger Andy Brouwer said...

Sorry Andy but the feel of Preah Palilay has now changed forever. The whole site is covered in sawdust at the moment as the tree-cutting exercise must've been completed very recently. And the tree stumps, as you can see in the picture, aren't photogenic at all.
We'll all be wearing those special shoes soon (to protect the temples from wear & tear) - I was given a leaflet with the updated version of the shoes this week and I wouldn't be surprised if Apsara try and introduce that feature anytime soon.
I've also heard elephants are again available for a sunset trip to the top of Phnom Bakheng. This on and off saga will no doubt continue. Its getting very boring and annoying that the authorities threaten action and then do nothing. A bit like the helmet law of 2 years ago which they have only now begun to enforce.
We must meet up for a coffee whilst I'm in Siem Reap.

January 17, 2009 6:00 PM  
Blogger Andy Brouwer said...

Why didn't I see it before, but the tree stumps in front of Preah Palilay look like giant hands moving slowly from left to right! Or is it just me? Am I watching too many scary movies? In fact I don't watch any scary movies, so its all in my mind...worrying!

January 23, 2009 4:18 PM  

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