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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Takeo's link to Laos

Takeo's link to Laos

takeo.jpg
takeo.jpg

There are two mountains near the district town of Angkor Borei in Takeo

province. One is called Phnom Da, the larger one is Phnom Borei. Both have

temples as well as some brick and stone remains of other buildings. The Khmer

legend for these two mountains relates to the founding of the town, which became

an important local trading center.

Weed-choked steps lead to the Phnom Borei temple.

In the distant past, a king lived on

the Upper Mekong in Champa Sak, Laos. His daughter, Ak Or, fell in love with a

commoner, which angered the king and caused him to send them both into exile on

a wooden raft. He ordered his men to place some rice, sesame seeds, maize, salt

and prahok before pushing the young lovers out into the river. He never saw them

again.

Much later the raft reached a mountain, and Ak Or and her new

husband used its fertile slopes to plant and harvest crops from those they had

been given. Each night Ak Or, who was very religious, prayed to the spirits of

the mountain to allow her family to live in harmony.

One evening a wise

magical spirit in a cave on the mountain told her she would become famous.

Prompted by the spirit, Ak Or asked her husband to cut down some trees for

firewood.

For days he kept cutting down trees and piling the logs near

their house. One day Ak Or noticed that the trees he had cut were the most

valuable tree of all: the Chan Krishna, famous for its fragrant oils.

She urged him to keep on with his task. During his forays into the

forest, her husband also discovered nuggets of pure gold on the ground. Being a

commoner, he thought they were merely attractive rocks, and he brought three

back to Ak Or to make a fireplace.

But as the daughter of a king, she was

more familiar with the precious metal. She told her husband to collect as much

gold as possible and stored it in a large room.

When the couple had

sufficient stocks of fragrant wood and gold, Ak Or hoisted a flag on the

mountain slope to notify passing junks that this was a place they could dock and

trade.

Seven wooden trading ships stopped and offered her bolts of cloth

and other goods in exchange for the wood. Next she took them to see the gold,

but refused to sell it to them in its raw state.

She told them that they

would first have to bring 100 goldsmiths and 100 women. Some months later, sure

enough, the businessmen came back having met her demands. The men and women she

employed to turn the gold into necklaces, bangles and rings.

 

Within a few years many more people had moved to the mountain, and Ak Or

became much respected. Later she appointed her husband king of an adjacent area,

Preah Bath Sangchak. He told his followers to build a barracks and named it

Borei, a name it retains.

It was at that point that husband and wife built a small temple to thank the

mountain spirit who had so inspired and protected them. That temple is Prasat

Phnom Da, about three kilometers east of Phnom Borei. Today Phnom Da is visited

by 200 foreign tourists a month.

The site at nearby Phnom Borei, home to

the Viang Chas (Old Palace), has been so damaged over the years that there is

not much more than the lowest level of brick and stone on the mountain's flat

top.

There are no stairs, so you need to clamber over rocks and through

bushes. It is easy to get lost, so ask one of the locals to help you.

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