Yesterday, Thursday, I couldn’t own up to the reality of it being my last day in the Park, so I decided to bike down to Phnom Krom instead. Located about seven miles south of town, this Angkor-era temple set on a hilltop (phnom) doesn’t receive much notice.
Apparently very small, and, according to the guidebook, worth the visit more for the surroundings than for the temple itself. “Very small, eh?” I reasoned, “Surely the can’t be checking tickets at this location,” as they had been at the Roluos temples.
Pretty okay ride, not much traffic. Passed a mosque on the way down there, if you would believe it. Dunno why it’s stuck out in the boondocks here? Perhaps the rents are more affordable.
Arriving to Phnom Krom before 8:00 in the morning, it was already broiling hot (well…okay, maybe only baking hot; didn’t get to broiling ‘til later), and there were a lot of steps to climb up.
But I achieved the top of the stairway, and, la-di-da, all set to continue on up the path to the top; and all of the suddenly: ticket-checker man! Dammit! Lucky thing those damned Khmers never put up a temple at the bottom of the ocean, or the ticket-checkers’d be sited there as well.
Thus ended my tour of Phnom Krom. Oh, well; the view from here was pretty nice.
Riding back into town, I stopped at a modern temple just the other side of the river. Who’d have guessed that a temple set in a small little village area would turn out to be possibly the Great Poobah of them all? But, wow, this one’s got some of everything.
Buncha great sculptures out front,…
…including several chicken-boys…
…Naga with loops-the-loop in their bodies…
…a three-headed golden elephant…
…and griffins and white elephant heading off to battle (I guess).
Who’d dare ask for more? Well, ask or no, the fun had only just begun. The murals of the secondary temple (really ought to do a little bit of study to learn the proper terminology of these places) are just so knock-your-socks-off terrifico! The craftsmanship isn’t quite up to the level of the Bakong temple – but it’s close; and there are so many of them, touching such a wide variety of topics.
What a sight!
I really like that so many of them prominently feature different animals from the same we’re used to seeing. Here, for example, a beautiful goat.
In many of the scenarios, as well, birds on the wing have been placed into the background; a welcomed touch.
Some pretty good laughs in here too. I mean, probably there’s something I’m missing in these, not knowing the Buddhist iconography nor the stories being depicted. But, taken out of context, a skeleton sitting in at worship ceremony…
…and a levitating monk flashing the devil-horns symbol (and right in the Big Guy’s presence, no less!)…
…is some knee-slapping goodness!
Moving on to the (gorgeous) office building…
…a somewhat freaky mountain composed of melted-off candle-wax.
Okay, now, on to the main temple. The outdoor three-D murals, some of ‘em, have this kind of washed/faded effect. Pretty together.
But check how high the ceiling is. Dang.
Inside, the murals are somehow not quite as thrilling as those in the secondary temple…oh, hang on…okay, just had a look at a site; and I do believe that what I’ve been calling the “secondary temple” lo these months is in point of fact the Ordination Hall. So, anyways, they not quite as great, but they’re still pretty great.
A fair amount of space is given over to monk portraiture. Famous monks in Cambodian history, p’rhaps?
Interestingly, one of these is a faceless monk. “Everymonk”, maybe; the monk inside us all. (Well factually, I must confess: a life of asceticism on the grounds of some of these beautiful spaces has its allure. At the end of the day, though, I don’t think I could handle the religion bullshit.)
The height of the ceiling makes for some rather tall murals; not to mention, well, it’s just kinda cool craning one’s neck to see all the way up there.
Those columns are kickass, too; their height, along with the interplay of the light from outside, gives the place some kind of a weird forest feeling.
Acoustics are pretty great in here, yeah. Believe (or don’t, your choice) that it’s only these two novices making all this racket. These two pilgrims received quite the lengthy session, by the way. I don’t know if they’d made a huge donation, or what; but usually, one drops some money in the pot, and in return receives about a minute’s worth of blessing. This one was going on for a good twenty minutes, at the least.
Sometimes it pays to look closely. What’s that damned elephant doing in the middle of the sun!? The artist going for some surrealism, or a depiction of a Buddhist legend, or…? Hells if I can say. I only know that this place lays a whipping on the llama’s ass!
Right. Out the back, there’s a nice, huge, garden o’ stupa. These Cambodians sure do love them some stupa, I must say.
And what’s that atop the poles? You know it!
The back gate is one of the more beautiful structures what’ll ever be seen by one’s own two eyeballs. Bummer the noontime light made the photographs kinda dogcrap. Here’s a okay one.
There’s a little moat with a nice shrine inside.
Also some awesome boats and stuff back here. (I’m telling you, they crammed everything they could think of into this place.)
A nice young gentleman name of “Deth” rode up and told me some true facts (e.g., the temple’s only three or four years old), in addition to asking many questions. He works at a guest house in town; said he wants to “make friends” with me so’s he can practice his English. I said sure, and gave my my e-mail address. Haven’t heard back from him yet, however.
After I snapped his photo, he insisted snapping mine own self in front of the shrine. He told me that from the looks of it, he’d thought me to be aged twenty-five or thirty years. I dunno…I think I look a fuck of a lot older than that!
He didn’t quite get the shrine into the frame.
So even out beyond the moat, there’s what may be a party area. Pagodas, and shrines, and a big hall, plus a fire-pit. (Although, from reading the website linked above — and pace what that dude’d said about having seen a “barbeque” in that one in town I told about before – this last could in fact be used for crematory works; and thus this whole area may be a funeral grounds.)
There are only a few murals in the activity centre, flanking the shrine; but they’re pretty beautiful indeed.
One of the shrines near the entrance has that same, weird look of some others in town…
Novice to Monk: Oh shit! Grand opening’s tomorrow, and we’re fresh out of Buddhas! What’s to be done?
Monk to Novice: Aw, just go get something from the Woolworth’s.
Maybe it’s just how the temples these days appeal to the youth demographic.
Then there’s a big, enclosed market area (I think maybe?).
And I think that’s about it! This is, I believe, one of my three favourite Buddhist joints to-date; along with Phan Phao in Luang Prabang and Tang Yu in Chiang Mai. Doesn’t have the “authentic” feel of the temples in those towns; but it’s got its own personality just the same. I quite love its “collage” feeling.
Shit, I couldn’t even see its name printed anywhere in Latin alphabet, and it damned sure ain’t on the map. Should’ve asked ol’ Deth.
(Aside: in re my repeated “ol’” usage: yo, I’m not gonna call my ripping off of Salinger’s style “shameless”, exactly; but I suppose it isn’t shameful enough for me to go ahead and cut it out. Odd, though; ‘cause I haven’t read Catcher In The Rye in probably five years…)
Well, then, I did visit even another temple nearer to town.
I’ll save y’all the agony of having to sit through yet another tour. Suffice to say, I liked it well enough; but not nearly so much as the first one. If y’ want some pictures, feel free to find ‘em over Flickr-side – though note my camera’s batteries fucked off before I’d even finished using them.
Would like, however, to briefly show a pretty hi-larious juxtaposition I learnt the other day, but neglected to tell about. It’s at a temple between town and the Park. I kept riding past it, thinking, “Oh, I gotta stop in here one of these times.” But it seemed like there was never enough daylight left to both stop in there and get back into town before dark.
But the other day, there was. It’s okay, the temple; actually falls rather short of the standards set by the others in (and south of) town. But there’s this one mega-mural, here’s part of the bottom half.
And then, just right around the corner from this bucolia, BLAMMO!
Funny, funny shit.