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Temples of Nang Rong

Prasat Muang Tam and Phanom Rung Historical Park

semi-overcast 30 °C

In the morning, we managed to send off some laundry, book a tour of the ruins with Kris and visit the day market by the lake. We got a familiar breakfast from 7-11 plus market oranges and barbequed eggs. I'd had them last time in Laos, and even with a weird texture, I find them pretty good. Ryan wasn't a fan and let me finish them.

The drive to the ruins went past fields of harvested crops and grazing cows. The sky was incredibly blue. It was reminiscent of Cambodia, except these cows weren't chained up. Kris kept down the back roads to avoid the traffic congestion. We got stopped at a checkpoint once and we found out that Kris was a retired army sergeant with slightly expired insurance that the police didn't care too much about.

The first temple we visited was Prasat Muang Tam, a smaller Khmer temple. The Angkor Wat temples in Cambodia came from the same empire. This one was built for the god Shiva and was in a direct line from Angkor Wat. Historically, people would often visit between them and use this area as a place to stay.

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The exterior had a triangular peak with carvings in the light brown bricks. It was a long building with a couple side entrances. The lintel over the central entrance depicted Krishna fighting Naga (snake) Kaliya because it had poisoned the river used by Krishna's people. Between the three entrances were windows with carved vertical pillars.

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Inside the temple were four L-shaped ponds with pink lotus flowers. The outer walls had similar entryways in each direction and we explore the space left open in the wall, taking photos through the frames. We found the side of the main temple in the sun and waited our turn to take pictures in front of it.

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Inside the main temple were four towers and a fifth larger one that didn't quite stand the test of time. It represented Mount Meru. We could go inside the four towers, although there wasn't much more than a concrete pedestal and the dome ceiling. There were also remains of the libraries where people would have kept scrolls and religious manuscripts.

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We found Kris sitting nearby, strumming on a guitar. We took off to the top of a dormant volcano to visit Phanom Rung Historical Park. The name was from the Khmer word Vnan Rung which meant 'vast mountain'.

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We perused the museum first which had all the information we lacked at the first temple. It went through many different Khmer monuments across the country. Many in Thailand served as rest houses on the journey to Angkor Wat, the mother temple. Phanom Rung was actually build before Angkor Wat in the 10th and 13th centuries. There were other exhibits on its history and how one of the lintels went missing last century. 'Give us back our lintel, take back your Michael Jackson' an activist had said. There was also information on different religious practises: the deflowering of young teens particularly unsettling from a human rights point of view, but that was ages ago.

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We went through the museum backwards so the pertinent information came last. Prasat Phanom Rung, the one we were currently at, was a Hindu temple designed for the God Shiva to resemble Mount Kailasa, Shiva's pantheon. The whole complex had been restored but due to lack of settlement or battles around the area until recently, the temples had been quite well preserved.

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After a few snacks, we tackled the lower stairway that at one time would have had a wooden gateway. Once we climbed the stairs, we came to a one story structure with stone pillars. Since it wasn't the main attraction, there were no crowds so we could explore the narrow gallery and ante chamber. It had been known as White Elephant House, now as Changing Pavilion since the kings used it to purify and prepare before a ritual at the main temple.

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After the Changing Pavilion came the Processional Walkway not as long as I anticipated given the description I'd read, but still long enough to have seven sandstone posts with lotus bud tops. The view of the main tower up ahead had most people excited. We passed one Naga (snake) bridge and challenged another set of stairs. Once at the top, the views of the fields off to the South were beautiful and made us realize we were pretty high up.

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We crossed the court and outer gallery, past more ponds to reach the impressive main tower. Carved from pink sandstone, the temple had a VIhara as well as an inner sanctum that at one time had enshrined the linga phallic symbol of Shiva. Above nearly every entrance, and there were many, were lintels depicting different scenes from Hindu epics. Some doors had a second lintel as we went inside to explore.

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We also visited the outer galleries, similar to Prasat Munag Tam, but with false windows. The library or Bannalai here was still standing completely and was one of the last structures built on the site. In contrast, the oldest brick sanctuaries had become ruins.

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Kris called to tell us that 'something', obscured by misunderstanding, was empty. I thought phone, Ryan thought gas tank so we visited the final entrances quickly, got a picture of the two of us and headed back.

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For supper, we went the other way down the main street and found a bilingual menu and a lady who understood 'Mai gin...' (don't eat...) and my list of animals that followed. We had fried rice and shared a veggie dish. Success!

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Posted by Sarah.M 20:07 Archived in Thailand Tagged park temple historical khmer hindu tam vegetarian nang_rong muang prasat phanom rung lintel Comments (0)

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