Siem Reap – Day 4 – Beng Mealea
Sunday, February 4
Another nice breakfast at the hotel, followed by pickup at 7:30 am by Mony and his driver (Sram?). Today was the longest drive from Siem Reap, about 1 hour 15 minutes.
Our first stop was a small quarry in a stream. Mony showed us how sandstone was cut and removed for shipment by water and elephant to the temples.
We then drove to Beng Mealea, a 12th century temple complex built to honor Shiva in the style of Angkor Wat and roughly contemporary with it. The temple was a separate fee ($5).
This was an active mine field area, but hopefully there are no mines left around the temple. 😃
The interesting thing about Beng Mealea is that, unlike the other temples that we saw, this one has not undergone restoration. There were many piles of jumbled stone and a totally fallen-down center tower, caused by the tropical climate and the silk-cotton and strangler fig trees. But there has been some preservation, for example wood supports to keep doorways from collapsing, and a wooden walkway running south to north-east (and some open courtyard areas to walk around) to keep visitors from doing damage. There are signs not to climb on the stones and roped-off areas.
We walked into the site at the west entrance and walked around to enter the temple on the south side. We exited north-east, walked around the outside clockwise and left the site at the south entrance. Another shot of the temple complex.
As with so many of the temples, there are Hindu mythology carvings on lintels and pediments, and trees growing through the stone.
All that’s left of a lion.
Sunlight streaming through, giving an Indiana Jones ambiance.
Devata ((usually) female gods/angels), less sensual than apsaras (dancers).
Devata and doorway.
“Mines have been cleared" sign, HALO Trust project.
More of the temple, showing some windows and roof.
Another entrance. Think that’s the south one. All these temples are symmetric, so it’s easy to get confused unless you think to look at the compass or sun (when you take the picture and look at it later) or are not directionally challenged.
Another piece of the temple complex.
The Hindu god Indra (god of rain) on his three-headed elephant.
Hindu mythology: Lord Rama, after recovering his kidnapped consort Sita, from Ravana, tests her for purity with an ordeal by fire (the lower part of the panel). She passed, as can be seen, sitting in her rightful place next to Rama on the upper part of the panel.
Another shot of the temple complex.
Another shot of the temple complex.
The story on this carving: It is said that a long time ago, Devas (gods) and Asuras (demons) were fighting against each other to ensure their domination over the world. Both wanted to extract the sacred Elixir of Immortality from the cosmic Ocean of Milk, but it required both forces. They used Mount Meru as a churning stick and a naga (snake) as a churning rope to churn the Ocean of Milk. The god Vishnu turned himself into his turtle avatar to stabilize the mountain. The apsaras (dancers) distracted the demons so that the gods took the elixir, This same story appears in many of the temples.
Another shot of the windows we saw almost everywhere. The number of posts in the windows is always odd (for luck).
Trees taking over.
Another shot of the complex.
Yet one more shot.
Naga (the snake)! Always an odd number of heads (odd is lucky).
We headed back to the hotel, arriving about 11:45. We had lunch, lounged around the pool area, and took one last walk along the river.
We were picked up at 4. We headed to the Angkor Artisans Workshop. We had a 30-minute tour of sandstone, soapstone, wood, silk painting, lacquer art in progress. We exited through the gift shop — 😃 — we bought a small soapstone elephant to bring home.
On to the airport, bag drop, security, Priority Pass into Plaza Premium Lounge, back to Singapore to Changi Cove for the night, then home on Monday by way of SFO. BTW, the Eagles beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl (Sunday night in the USA).
An amazing trip! And we thank Mony for being such a great guide!