“Old House with Horns”

Friday, 18 December 2009

My old friend Allen jokingly refers to the profile image I use in my face book- a small buddhist stone temple (which to his way of seeing is an “old house with horns”)- as my current look. It’s a smart poke on me at my upcoming birthday. Getting old again, blah blah, edging closer to nirvana or hell. The striking similarity with age and the old house is nowhere near the truth; of course, something I must parry off over beer drinking philosophical discourse, haha.

Actually, the old house with horns is the Wat Sumpo Pram at Bokor Hill Station in Kampot province. Nestled on the 3540 ft peak of Bokor mountain, the buddhist monastery is one of the interesting sights in the area that overlooks the panoramic southern coast of Cambodia. The station was built by the French in the early 1920’s as a reatreat away from Phnom Penh. At present, visitors to the hill station will find the once elegant hotel and casino, a catholic church, former royal residences, and other buildings that are in perpetual state of neglect, a tableaux of eerie experience as they are enshrouded by clouds and fog. Because of its elevation and strategic location, Bokor was fiercely fought over by the Khmer Rouge and the Vietnamese, as noted by one travel blogsite. “The entire mountain area around Bokor has recently been placed under protective status as a National Park by the Cambodian government. This will ensure that the beauty of Bokor (including the magnificent view of the coastline and pristine jungle which serves as habitat for wild elephants, monkeys, and other jungle animals) will not be encroached upon by future development.”

The image of the temple with an old monk in crimson robe walking through is one that stays with me among the hundreds of images that I have seen in various media. The sight of monks especially holds some kind of facination to me, a source of wonder. It is a dimension of reality that seems to play tricks on my mind in that it possesses an absolute sense of mysticism, an aura of forbidding transcience, while in the same breath I am pressed to frame it against the tangible senses of the world.

I guess this partially answers Allen’s seeking for a story behind the “old house with horns”.

Koh Kong, Cambodia

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