Banteay Srei

This last weekend at the Angkor Wat temple complex, I was also able to see Banteay Srei! I’d never seen this temple before, but I’ve been dying to because of all the good things I’ve heard and read about it. Banteay Srei is unique because of the pink color of its sandstone and the incredibly detailed quality of its carvings.

I’m happy to report that it lived up to all of the hype, and became one of my new favorite temples! I’ve always loved Bayon because of the massive faces that make it unique, but Banteay Srei and its intricate artwork take a very close second.

Although the temple was small, every portion of it was elegantly carved, from pillars at the doorways to murals higher on the walls, to inscriptions. It always amazes me to think about how much work and effort went into these temples.

Lucky for me, I went with three of my Cambodian teachers who were able to give me a little more enlightenment on what all of the carvings meant. My favorite was a god who eats time. As you live out your life, he eats more and more of your time away until you don’t have any left.

សត្វដាយនូស័រនៅតាព្រហ្ម

I thought it might be fun to write another version of yesterday’s post about the Dinosaur of Ta Prohm…. But this time in Khmer language! I know most of you won’t understand, but I think the script is incredibly beautiful. And, if you do understand, I’d love some pointers! I’m loving learning, and want to continue improving as much as I can.

ពេលមិត្តរួមថ្នាក់និងខ្ញុំទៅទីក្រុងសៀមរាប     យើងទៅលេងអង្គរវត្ត។     ខ្ញុំមិនដែលឃើញប្រាសាទដែលខ្ញុំបានឃើញពីមុនមកដូច្នេះខ្ញុំសប្បាយណាស់។     លោកគ្រូនិងងអ្នកគ្រូរបស់ខ្ញុំដឹងច្រើនអំពីប្រាសាទ។     យើងខ្ញុំទៅប្រាសាទបន្ទាយស្រី     ប្រាសាទនាគព័ន្ធ     ប្រាសាទព្រោះគំលង់     និងប្រាសាទតាព្រហ្ម។     ខ្ញុំចូលចិត្តប្រាសាទបន្ទាយស្រីជាងគេពីព្រោះមានចម្លាក់ស្អាតជាងគេបំផុត។

ខ្ញុំទៅប្រាសាទតាព្រហ្មឆ្នាំមុន     ប៉ុន្តែខ្ញុំមិនដឹងអំពីប្រវត្តិសាស្ត្រប្រាសាទដែល។     លោកគ្រូរបស់ខ្ញុំបង្ហាញមិត្តរួមថ្នាក់សត្វដាយនូស័រនៅតាព្រហ្ម។

ពេល​ខ្ញុំក្មេងៗ     ខ្ញុំចុលចិត្តសត្វដាយនូស័រច្រើនណាស់។     តាព្រហ្មសាងនៅសតវត្សទី១២។     សត្វដាយនូស័របានងាប់៦៥លានឆ្នាំមុន។     ប្រទេសកម្ពុជាមិនមានឆ្អឹងសត្វដាយនូស័រទេ។     ខ្ញុំចង់ដឹងហេតុអ្វីប្រាសាទតាព្រហ្មមានចម្លាក់សត្វដាយនូស័រ។     ខ្ញុំឃើនអ៊ីនធឺណិត។     មាន៣គំនិត។

១)     ជា Stegosaurus​ ។     ខ្ញុំមិនគិតថាជា Stegosaurus ពិព្រោះមិនមានភស្តុតាងផ្សាងៗ

២)     ជាសត្វរមាសនិងស្លឹកឈើនៅពីក្រាយ។     គេឆ្លាក់សត្វផ្សាងជាមួយស្លឹកឈើ     និងវាមើលទៅដូចសត្វដាយនូស័រ។

៣)     ជាការលេងសើច។     ខ្ញុំគិតថាទំនងជាងគេបំផុត។

 

 

Sources:
http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/dinosaur-angkor-wat
http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/stegosaurus-rhinoceros-or-hoax-40387948

The Dinosaur of Angkor Wat

Over the weekend I was able to visit the Ankor Wat temple complex for the third time. Since everyone in our class had seen the Big Four temples, we decided to go off the beaten path a little and see some that we hadn’t been to before. I was so happy to explore new places, and loved being able to finally see Banteay Srey, as well as Prasat Neak.

After all of our adventuring, we did hit some familiar territory. Ta Prohm, famous for the massive trees growing atop its walls, is an incredible sight. Although we had all seen this temple before, our Cambodian teachers had a secret for us: a tiny carving on a remote wall that appears to be a stegosaurus. I love dinosaurs, and have since I was a kid. I even had a small stegosaurus toy that I called “Steggie.” I’ve researched enough to know that dinosaurs died far before humans ever graced the face of the earth. So would an Angkorian temple have one carved into the walls?

I did some research, and it turns out there are three basic theories:

 

  1. Dinosaurs really did walk the earth alongside humans.

This theory is heavily used by creationist groups, many of whom believe that the planet is much younger than science says. This particular carving has even been cited as evidence that dinosaurs were around that recently.

Unlikely, I think. In addition to the mountains of evidence (fossil dating, rock layers, length of evolution, etc.) there is no other evidence to support the existence of dinosaurs in the relatively recent past.

 

  1. This carving was another animal, possibly a rhinoceros, surrounded by leaves.

This could be possible. The temples do feature a number of animals and animal-like gods adorning their walls, and I suppose that a rhinoceros could have been one of them. The carving does have what looks like horns protruding from its nose, and I’ll admit that the neck is longer than a real stegosaurus’s would have been.

My main argument against this is that the temples function under certain themes, and the same themes are replayed over and over again. Dancers, religious stories, naga, etc. are all repeated throughout the temple complex innumerable times. This is the only carving of its kind that has been discovered, which brings me to the third theory…

 

  1. Someone carved the dinosaur as a hoax.

This, in my opinion, is the likeliest of the three options. It’s very plausible that someone came in and chiseled this little dinosaur where a different figure once was, a humorous joke that’s been played on all visitors to the temple.

 

Sources:
www.atlasobscura.com/places/dinosaur-angkor-wat www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/stegosaurus-rhinoceros-or-hoax-40387948

Rain Betting

I’m always learning something new here; yesterday it was a betting game.

We were out for a casual field trip to the Olympic Stadium to see the place where many Cambodians go to exercise when we started to see a large crowd of men gathering, maybe twenty or thirty of them. Several had large walkie talkies, spewing fuzzy words through their speakers. Everyone was intensely listening, muttering and some even shouting back and forth.

We asked our teacher what was going on and were surprised to find out that it was a popular betting game based on the rain.

It originated in the province of Battambang. It’s illegal now, but like many laws in Cambodia it’s not enforced. The men betting told us that even high-up people play, like the son of the prime minister.

How it works is that the “boss” of the game collects everyone’s money then waits at a designated spot for the rain to start. People bet on different things like when the rain will start, how much it will rain, how long the rain will go on, which direction the rain will blow… It’s the rainy season right now, so it’s pretty clear that it will start pouring at some point.

Yesterday they said that they were each betting around $500. Sometimes people will be too over-confident and bet so much that they lose their house or car in one go.

Once the rain starts and stops the “boss” then distributes the money, of course keeping fair amounts for himself. Of all the people playing, he’s easily taking the most profit.

 

Fourth of July in Cambodia

Yesterday (or I suppose tonight if you’re in the US) was the Fourth of July, America’s Independence Day. It’s clearly not a holiday celebrated in Cambodia, and I missed the festivities for the year. No chewy hot dogs, booming fireworks, flying flags, or overwhelming patriotism.

Many of you know of my displeasure with the United States right now. For those of you who don’t, a nutshell-version: Trump is horrible, climate change is the largest issue facing our generation (such as the water crisis), and blatant discrimination and violence are rampaging our country. We’ve withdrawn from the Paris Agreement, hate crimes are on the rise, police brutality dominates minority communities, and so on. I’ve been so upset this past eight months because of the governmental and systematic issues that have been revealed and amplified by the Trump presidency. For me, it’s hard to believe how far we’ve fallen.

In all honesty, I’m a little relieved to have been gone. I’m not feeling particularly patriotic lately. Here, there was no pressure to celebrate a country I’m not sure I believe in anymore.

A Visit to the Royal Palace

At long last, I finally got to visit the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh! Considering that this is my third time in Cambodia, I really should have gone to see this before.

It is grand. Red and gold buildings adorn the grounds, smaller temples near the towering figure of the palace. Several stupas rise up into the air, most of which contain remnants of people from the royal family. Sweet incense wafts across the grounds.

It was Sunday, so the traffic was a little heavier; I, however, thoroughly enjoyed the people-watching. Many monks came to pay their respects, taking photos with their cellphones to remember the journey. Locals came to worship inside the many temples. Tourists walk around toting heavy backpacks, hoisting selfie sticks into the air.

The Silver Pagoda also lies within the grounds of the Royal Palace. Aptly named, the entire floor is made of pure silver tiles. Hundreds of golden Buddha statues in various sizes rest inside, from small as the palm of your hand up to life-sized, all solid gold encrusted with gemstones. Most are gifts from wealthy parties, given to honor the royal family and the Silver Pagoda.

Despite the extreme beauty of the place, I am uneasy. Outside on the streets are covered with trash and dust, poorly maintained houses, beggars, poverty… And yet, this glorious temple is filled with inconceivable amounts of wealth.

Cambodia is abundant with resources, from petroleum to gemstones to precious metal. The wealth distribution is horrifying, a product of corrupt government and ill-managed riches.

Making Khmer Lunch

Today, we got to make our own lunch! Our teacher and the housekeeper for the Center for Khmer Studies helped us to cook.

We had four dishes:

Two varieties of green papaya salad. The first had dressing made from chili, salt, sugar, shrimp, and lime juice. The second used crab instead of shrimp.

0630171203a_HDR

Char kway teow, a dish with noodles, fried egg, meat (we used pork for one plate and meatless for the other), green onions, and bean sprouts.

And mine, a mango slushie! I used mango fruit, sugar, lime juice, club soda, and ice. It turned out pretty sweet, but the cold frozen drink was so refreshing in the heat!

0630171212b_HDR-01