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Waterless Island of Elephants

Once upon a time, the Angkor region of Cambodia’s irrigation system included a number of resevoirs.  Inside the barays, as they were called, were built several islands.  I’ve heard that they represented the world according to Hindu mythology-the world surrounded by a vast, cosmic sea.  One of these islands was the East Mebon in the East Baray.

Fast forward to modern day, and the water is gone.  Boats have been replaced by tuk tuks and bikes.  Stairs lead the way up to the stone walkway that once served as a pier.

East Mebon is a lot like a temple mountain.  From the bottom level, there are several steep sets of stairs that lead up to the higer levels before finally reaching the upper tier and its five small towers.

The platforms are covered with grass and trees.  If you look below the foliage, you see that it is growing from between the stones.  Here and there the remains of buildings remain.  Some are no more than pieces of carved stone stacked together.  Others are complete walls and door ways, interrupted by holes where the blocks have collapsed.

There are carvings everywhere.  Some is just architectural, like the elegantly crafted pillars that stand beside the doors or in the windows.  In other place, they are more artistic (and religious), representing the gods and their stories.  Lions flank the stairs while elephants stand guard at the corners of the platforms.

Inside the central tower on the top tier is a small shrine to Buddha.  A shaft of light shines down through a hole in the roof on a Buddha statue, wrapped in a saffron robe, and surrounded by incense and offerings.

From the top, you can look out and see the land in all directions.  Trees and roads as far as the eye can see. No sign of water.

Korean word of the post: 동 메본 (dong me-bon) East Mebon

Chinese word of the post: 东湄本寺 (dong1 mei2 ben3 shi4) East Mebon

Khmer word of the post: ប្រាសាទមេបុណ្យខាងកើត East Mebon

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