Friday, 30 January 2015

Day 10 Beng Mealea

Again we met Mr Pen early to go to Beng Mealea 63km to the east of Siam Reap, which took about 2 hours in the tuk tuk.

Beng Mealea or Bung Mealea means lotus pond, a sprawling jungle temple covering over one square kilometer. The temple is largely overrun by vegetation giving it an adventurous, ‘lost temple’ feel. Constructed in a distinctly Angkor Wat style under the same king that built Angkor Wat, Beng Melea preceded and may have served as a prototype of sorts for Angkor Wat. Though there are some lintel and doorway carvings, there are no bas-reliefs and the carvings are comparatively sparse. When the temple was active, the walls may have been covered, painted or had frescos. In its time, Beng Melea was at the crossroads of several major highways that ran to Angkor, Koh Ker, Preah Vihear (in northern Cambodia) and northern Vietnam.

The history of the temple is unknown and it can be dated only by its architectural style, identical to Angkor Wat, so scholars assumed it was built during the reign of king Suryavarman II in the early 12th century. Smaller in size than Angkor Wat, the king's main monument, Beng Mealea nonetheless ranks among the Khmer empire's larger temples: the gallery which forms the outer enclosure of the temple is 181 m by 152 m. It was the centre of a town, surrounded by a moat 1025 m by 875 m large and 45 m wide.

Beng Mealea is oriented toward the east, but has entranceways from the other three cardinal directions. The basic layout is three enclosing galleries around a central sanctuary, collapsed at present. The enclosures are tied with "cruciform cloisters", like Angkor Wat. Structures known as libraries lie to the right and left of the avenue that leads in from the east. There is extensive carving of scenes from Hindu mythology, including the Churning of the Sea of Milk and Vishnu being borne by the bird god Garuda. Causeways have long balustrades formed by bodies of the seven-headed Naga serpent.

It was built mostly of sandstone: Beng Mealea is only 7 km far from the angkorian sandstone quarries of Phnom Kulen, as the crow flies. Presumably sandstone blocks used for Angkor were transported along artificial water canals and passed from here.

This drive was through the more business part of the city on the major highway to Phnom Penh before we turned off and travelled through the country side once again. Below was the most colourful shop selling kites.

We stopped at this little stand and Mr Pen brought some bamboo pieces about 30cm long which had  been hollowed out and a mix of rice and black beans were placed inside and then placed over a fire, this is Cambodian take away food, it was quite sticky so once you peeled back the bamboo it was easy to pick out and eat. A very bland but interesting type of food.

After having lunch nearby it was on the road to Kompong Phluk a floating village on the Tonle Sap Lake which means Harbour of the Tusks.

After arriving by tuk tuk we boarded a small boat with out own driver and we slowly wound our way along the river looking at the houses and the way of life of these people of the Phluk. On the edge of the lake we got off the boat and took a tour in a canoe through what appeared to be a type of mangrove forest, the trees did not have roots above the water like ours do and there was no odour to the area like the mangroves in Australia get. It was late afternoon by this stage and the stillness of being the only ones in the forest slowing drifting along in the canoe after viewing the simplicity of life along the river really made one think of just how simple life is and that all is provided that we need it is just through our need for more than we need the pace of life increases and we lose track of the way life was meant to be. A wonderful 1/2 canoe ride to really put life into perspective and appreciate that there is no need to place pressure upon ourselves or to live by the clock.

On the drive through the villages we would hear very loud music and as we passed even the most humble of homes would have tents up and people would be dressed in their finest clothes gathering together and celebrating what we assume are weddings. This would be the season to do it in the cooler months, before the wet season, it is surprising just how many we have passed in only a couple of days, below is the tent for one of the weddings to give you an idea.

At first I could not understand why some of the homes along the way had a beautiful male cow in the front yard, all of which seem to be cared for so well, at the end of the day we saw people taking the cows either home or to new pasture. Then I saw some farmers using the cows as we image a horse to pull carts, farming implements etc so no wonder they are so precious. I imagine they would be the pride and joy of the owners.

The first homes on the floating village, these do not look very old and brightly painted such a contrast to the land.

This is one of the bridges that crosses the river, the balance these people have to walk the bridges, balance on the very tip of boats catching fish or casting nets, sitting in a squatting style on the ground, just leaves me speechless. In comparison I am clumsy and a person requiring many more comforts that what I would normally think about.

A wedding in the floating village.

Even here they have built a beautiful temple very high up out of the water, quite an engineering feat.

The restaurant out on the lake with absolutely nothing around but stillness and silence.

Here is a floating vegetable garden, everything to same as on the land just floating.

The setting sun on the way home across the rice fields.

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