Chased by monkeys and blessed by a monk

September 22, 2014

Phnom ProsThere are  A LOT of temples in Cambodia, some ruins, some beautifully kept and still used regularly. It was on our excursion to Kampong Cham, to the Twin Holy Mountains of Phnom Pros and Phnom Srei, that we encountered some spectacular temples and Buddhas.

But what caught our attention first of all were the monkeys running wild everywhere. They’re macaques, and as you can see they’re rather gorgeous…

macaque monkey Cambodia












…I loved the expression on this one’s face…

monkey sticking his tongue out














…and then he stuck his tongue out…

sitting monkey Phnom Pros













…and this one…

sleepy monkey Cambodia














…and this sleepy one…

steps at Phnom Pros Cambodia












but they’re utterly fearless. If they cotton on to the fact that you’re watching them, they will leap on top of you or even chase you… which is why we found ourselves running down these rather steep steps…

monk with reclining Buddha Phnom SreiSo safely away from the monkeys we found ourselves surrounded by giant – and I do mean giant – Buddhas…









I think this photo puts the size in perspective…

Temple at Phnom Srei






I’m not remotely religious, and I find it difficult to see lots of gold and jewels when there are people living hand to mouth and begging within spitting distance. I like the idea of Buddhism but I can’t really get past that. But inside this beautiful temple, there was a shrine and the sobering sight of hundreds of skulls, victims of the Khmer Rouge and the Killing Fields. So maybe it’s about what helps you to get through whatever cards life deals you, and I do respect that.

Udon temple













On our visit to Udon, a monastery near Kampong Trolach, we saw the most astonishing temples, all glittering in the sunshine against the azure blue sky…

Children on the steps of Udon temple












…these kids were sitting on the steps, trying to take our shoes for a few dollars (giving money like this is really discouraged, and I couldn’t possibly inflict my smelly Birkis on them)…

ceiling Udon temple









…and then inside (this is the spectacular ceiling) we were invited to sit in the lotus position (well, cross-legged at least) on the floor and close our eyes while two monks chanted at us, apparently something about long life and happiness…

monks Udon










…at one point we were pelted with what I thought was water but turned out to be lotus flowers. And then when that was over we were invited (after we’d given over a few dollars, of course) to receive our amulets – red wool bracelets, blessed by the monks. Of course the monks aren’t allowed to touch women and both my monk and I found it funny as he tried to tie the knot without touching my wrist.

But… I still haven’t taken it off. I’m not sure if there’s anything in it but I’ll take all the help I can get.

monks Udon monastery













Afterwards, we were free to explore the monastery. We saw this procession of monks, off to get the food offerings from the neighbouring villages – they have to eat before midday every day.

elderly monk Udon













There was an old monk…

baby monk Udon














…and a young monk. Apparently boys/young men can try being a monk for a week if they fancy it and then go back to their everyday lives when they’ve had enough. No, me either.

Monks sheltering from the sun Udon












…I love this shot of the monks sheltering from the sun – they’re almost camouflaged..

Nuns at Udon













…and we also saw nuns…

nun's house Udon














…this is a nun’s house.

children playing Udon






…and kids playing hopscotch and climbing trees.

Buddha at Udon




















Our visit to Udon was a fascinating glimpse into a world that had been, until then, totally alien to me. Did it make me more centred, or calmer? Oh, for about five minutes.

amulet and a Strawberry Daiquiri







(Here’s my amulet. And a Strawberry Daiquiri, natch.)



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