Saturday, July 10, 2010

Cambodia Vignettes

Vignette 3 - The Forgotten Temples

The magnificent Hindu and Buddhist temples of Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom, built in the 12th and 13th centuries, are the major attractions of a World Heritage site near the city of Siem Reap. But temples - some older than that - are in fact scattered all around Siem Reap. Not all are marked on tourist maps.

My recent visit to Cambodia was an official one to see development projects, including some near Siem Reap. My colleagues and I decided to visit a village not far from one of the major highways in the country. Not far in terms of kilometres from the highway, that is. In fact we ended up doing a 45-minute bone-rattling drive on barely discernible paths - sometimes not discernible at all! I would have suggested turning back, but there was nowhere to turn.
We spent an interesting 45 minutes in the village, visiting a textile weaving scheme that builds on a traditional skill to create modern designs and provide greater income to women. As we finished, we let out a collective groan in anticipation of the drive back. On a whim, one of colleagues asked the women if there was a better way back to the highway. And there was!

So we took this better route back. I have never been so thankful for a dirt track! Bumpy as it was, it was heaven compared with the drive out along the practically non-existent path. We were so happy we were almost shouting in glee. Then, suddenly, we rounded a corner and found much more cause for joy. Two old temples in the middle of nowhere! Amazing. There were no deities in these small temples, but to my untrained eye they looked like old Hindu temples. The temples were built with the large stones typical of Khmer architecture.

There was also part of a wall and several broken columns. There was a one-room modern building near the temples and a Buddha statue, also from recent times, placed in the open next to the old temples. So some people were aware of the old ruins. But there was no sign of an archaelogical authority or government agency.

Of course, these simple, probably older, temples don't begin to compare with the glory of Angkor Wat or the Bayon. But on that hot afternoon, after the gruelling drive to and from the village, they were like a gift. A beautiful sight for sore eyes.

1 comment:

  1. What a good collection, especially the comprehensive description of the roads!