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Sonntag, 29. Mai 2011

Hangover II

Nachdem der erste Teil in Las Vegas spielte, ist der Schauplatz dieses Mal Thailand und besonders Bangkok.

Dieser Film wird von der Kritik zerrissen, aber wer Bangkok kennt, wird seine reine unbeschwerte Freude haben, denn er/sie weiss, dass in dieser Stadt nichts unmöglich ist.

Wer gerade in Bangkok ist, dem ist empfohlen, die Gelegenheit wahrzunehmen und sich unter die Thais in den grossen Kinos zu mischen. Das ist sowieso immer ein Erlebnis.

Der Film wird im Original-Englisch mit Thai-Untertiteln gezeigt

Wie man hört, kichern sich die Thais einen weg. 

Part 17 - Preah Vihear No Man's Land

A lintel ready to be sold in the black market...

The Demise of the Khmer Empire

After the death of the Khmer King Jayavarnam VII around 1220 AD the glory of the empire subtly diminished.

The Siamese conquered Ankor Wat in 1351 for the first time thus having control over Preah Vihear as well. For the last time the Khmers were able to recapture Ankor Wat again, but only to lose it to the Siamese in the year 1431 for centuries to come. During a rebellion in the 17th century the Khmers managed to win a battle, but not the independence from Siam. As a reminder the Khmers named a village close to Ankor Wat “Siem Reap”, meaning: “the defeat of Siam”. The Khmer success of this battle was short lived, but Siem Reap, the gateway to Ankor Wat, with its international airport nowadays became a well known travel destination and its name remains a thorn in the side of Thailand.        

The year 1431 AD can be considered the end of the Khmer empire, an empire so powerful and large that was never seen before in this geography. From now on the area that is now called Cambodia became a playing field of foreign forces like Siam, Vietnam and France. The Siamese Royals considered themselves as the rightful successors of the Khmers royal house and took over rituals, customs and culture of the Khmer Kings.  

And then came the European colonists, the French and the British. They carried instruments in their luggage never seen before by the locals, instruments that enabled the colonists to define exact borders at the edges of their claims. These borders were then sketched on paper for everyone to be seen. However, the locals never have been able to make sense out of these strange drawings called maps. And so it came that the Siamese signed a treaty with the French in the year 1907 accepting the borders between then Indochina and Siam. Siam had to give up Ankor Wat and other areas of Cambodia. The map defining the border between Cambodia and Siam was attached to the agreement. This border is still valid today.

The only thing the Siamese understood in this context was the term “watershed”. The treaty expressed in words that whenever possible natural geographical features like escarpments, mountains and rivers establish the borders between Siam and Indochina. The Dangrek mountain range is such a natural feature. It represents a watershed.

For ominous reasons the French made an exception in the case of Preah Vihear. Instead of using the edge of the Dangrek escarpment as the border, they deviated from this rule as expressed in the treaty and draw the border generously around Preah Vihear so that it remained on Cambodian soil. Siam ordered copies of this map from the French and distributed them to the province governors and other government institutions.

The border conflict seemed to be settled once and for all, but…

…it took the Siamese and then called the Thais almost 30 years to recognize their mistake. Meanwhile smart enough to handle instruments for land surveys they set up their own border commission in 1934 to verify the borderline between Thailand and Cambodia. For the first time they stumbled over the Preah Vihear issue, but did not protest. They just considered the French map of 1907 a sloppy drawing. In the minds of the Thais Preah Vihear was without any doubt on Thai soil.

In the year 1953 Cambodia celebrated the independence day from France. Proud of their ancient past they chose Preah Vihear besides Ankor Wat as one of the locations for the festivities. Thailand felt provoked and stationed their troops on Preah Vihear temple grounds in 1954. Relationships between both countries deteriorated and resulted in a breakup of diplomatic relations in 1958.                

In 1959 Cambodia called the international court of justice for help. In 1962 this court ruled that the temple grounds belong to Cambodia, but left precise border definitions open.

Since then it is a never-ending story. Every time one of both countries faces internal problems or takes one-sided initiative in respect to Preah Vihear the politicians and/or the military try to draw the attention to the border issue away from the real domestic problems. Then shootouts at short distance from each other determine the headlines of the media and lots of nationalistic phrases are muttered.       

Preah Vihear could be a lively place where peoples of many countries meet, full of joy and respect for ancient cultures. Thailand and Cambodia could manage the tourist business jointly, initiate renovation of ruined buildings and let Preah Vihear rise up to new glory. It could be a win-win situation for both countries, but as long as they are deeply involved in their own internal problems chances are low to come to an agreement.

The fight for 4.6 square kilometres will go on for a while. This map shows the borders as drawn by the French in 1907 and signed by both parties (old). So far the Khmers can reach the temple grounds on food walking on their own turf. If the border would be changed to “new” the Khmers were forced to cross the border to Thailand  before entering Preah Vihear unless they come by helicopter or build a cable car going up to the edge of the Dangrek escarpment 500 metres above. 

 Source: Bangkokpost.

But the day will come. The Thais and Khmers who will stroll around Preah Vihear in peace and friendship are already born. Hope is the last thing to die.

And this is how it will all end. Once Lord Shiva starts to dance and thus annihilating the universe to make room for its re-birth the next morning, it will be too late.

Lord Shiva destroying the universe

Final remark: it’s by intention that the author does not position himself clearly on one side or the other. It’s his humble opinion that participation in further polarization will not contribute to a solution of this conflict. The frontiers of opinions are established since 50 years anyway and more than enough suffering was imposed on the people living in the vicinity of this border post. Not to mention the continuous destruction of what is left of the Preah Vihear buildings. The only way out is compromise and understanding. Whoever reaches out his hand unselfishly first will be the modern hero of Preah Vihear.  

Cautionary Remark: Whoever intends to visit Preah Vihear / Khao Pra Wihan should ask for advice beforehand. As of now, May 2011, the place is closed for visitors. Thai and Cambodian troops face each other in close proximity. Renewed battles could emerge at any time.   

Freitag, 27. Mai 2011

Part 16 - Preah Vihear No Man's Land

At the Edge

After passing the gallery it’s just a few meters over sandy and rocky grounds and the visitor stands at the edge of the Dangrek escarpment. One step further means certain death. The rim is unsecured. A large vertical cliffside faces Cambodia approximately 500 m below. 

There are traces of a small stone pit all over the place. It was here where the Khmers cut the early stones to lay down the foundation of Preah Vihear in the late 9th and early 10th century AD and built the first humble sanctuary dedicated to Lord Shiva.

A breathtaking view opens up onto the wide plains of Cambodia deep down. The sounds are cushioned as if the slight breeze carries them away before they reach the ear. Giant hawks and eagles surf the skies without a wing beat in the upcurrents, occasionally proclaiming their high pitch call of freedom.    

The Khmer empire was at no times a static affair with defined borders as we know them today. With the exception of the core around Ankor Wat the geography was ruled by more or less influential Khmer powers. The edges of the Khmer Kingdom continuously shrivelled away or expanded.

Almost unnoticed by chroniclers the so called Tai people seeped steadily but in relatively small numbers into North-Vietnam, North-Laos, Burma and North-Thailand long before the Khmer empire reached its peak in the 13th century AD. They did that in small groups travelling along the rivers. At first without ambitions to be self ruled on larger scale. That changed dramatically when the Mongolian chieftain Kublai Khan pressed south. Tens of thousand of Tai people took off, left their homelands in South-China, one of them Yunnan, and followed their ancestors into Vietnam, Laos, Burma and Thailand.         

After they reached the “critical mass” in North-Thailand it was only a question of time before a charismatic Tai leader was born who strived towards his own kingdom with independence from the Khmers as a final target.

In 1259 AD the Tai king Mengrai founded the Lan Na kingdom in North-Thailand with Chiang Rai first and Chiang Mai later as the center. Lan Na, the land of the million rice fields.

Almost at the same time, in the year 1238, Pho Khun Sri Indraditya founded the Kingdom of Sukhothai south of Lan Na. His son Ramkhamhaeng being known as the dear father of all Thai subjects. Both kings were warrior kings and expanded their kingdom significantly on the expense of the Khmers. Sukhothai, the dawn of happiness, as it is romantically idealised by the official Thai history books. The year 1238 AD is considered the birth year of the Thai-nation. That’s more than 400 years after the Khmer nation was founded. History books distinguish between “Tai” and “Thai” from now on, with the term “Siamese” for Tais in what is today Thailand becoming the most frequently used term.         

Sukhothai was then superseded by Ayutthaya with king U-Thong in the central plains of Thailand in 1350 AD.

In Laos changes took place too. Lan Ngum, a military Tai-man trained by the Khmers, founded the kingdom of Lan Chang, the land of the million elephants, in 1353.       

They all found themselves in competition with the Khmers. Whereas the Lan Na and Lan Chang kings seemed to be satisfied by the extent of their lands, nursing their farming, trading, handicraft and cultural skills, the Siamese warrior kings strived for more…  

Cautionary Remark: Whoever intends to visit Preah Vihear / Khao Pra Wihan should ask for advice beforehand. As of now, May 2011, the place is closed for visitors. Thai and Cambodian troops face each other in close proximity. Renewed battles could emerge at any time.   

stay tuned...

Montag, 23. Mai 2011

Rezension "Funny Games"

Björn Jahners Buchtipp: „Funny Games“ – Bis zur bitteren Neige

Der neue Erfolgsroman von Louis Anschel und Hermann U. Loewel


Louis Anschel, bekannt mit den Erfolgsromanen „Ein Farang schlägt zurück“ sowie „Eine Schlange im Paradies“, und Hermann U. Loewel, Autor des Top-Seller „Short Times“, melden sich zurück. Die beiden bekannten Thailand-Autoren entpuppen sich als ein stimmiges Team und präsentieren mit dem neuesten Roman „Funny Games“ das charakteristische Leben von Auswanderern und Urlaubern auf Freiersfüßen in der Touristenmetropole Pattaya.

Die Leser gehen auf eine spannende Reise in das bizarre Nachtleben Pattayas und tauchen tief ein in skurrile sowie laszive Lebensgeschichten verschiedener in der Touristenmetropole lebender Farangs. Die auftretenden Figuren sind vereinsamte, seelisch deformierte Menschen, die hinter ihrer vermeintlichen 68er-Fassade und lässigen Mentalität ein gestörtes Verhältnis zur Realität offenbaren. Das Geschehen konzentriert sich auf den Verlauf von sieben Tagen und sieben Nächten. Mittelpunkt und Schnittpunkt des Geschehens ist ein Hotel in der Soi Diana Inn, in unmittelbarer Nähe zum prickelnden Nightlife der Partyhauptstadt des Königreiches.

Spannung vom ersten bis zum letzten Wort: Die einzelnen Kurzgeschichten werden als Momentaufnahmen geschildert, die sich überschneiden und dabei dramatische Wendungen erfahren. So stellen sich anfangs scheinbar unbedeutende Entscheidungen der Figuren an späterer Stelle als folgenreich heraus. Ganz nach dem Motto „Wer nicht wagt, der nicht gewinnt“ bestreiten die Figuren des Romans den tiefen Dschungel aus Party-Exzessen und exotischen sowie geheimnisvollen Schönheiten der Nacht im größten Sündenpfuhl Thailands.

Der satirische Roman übt bitterböse und zynische Kritik am typischen Alltag zwischen Bars und horizontalem Gewerbe in Pattaya und seziert den unaufhaltsam fortschreitenden Verfall gesellschaftlicher Werte. Da die Protagonisten in einer Stadt, in der alles käuflich ist, individuelle Regeln aufstellen, geraten sie so durch ihr eigenes Handeln immer tiefer in einen Sumpf, aus dem sie sich nicht mehr befreien können…

Der Pattaya-Roman, dem lange entgegengefiebert wurde, hält, was er verspricht und besitzt das Potential, zum großen Winter-Hit zu werden. Egal, ob am Strand oder in der kalten Heimat vor dem Kamin: „Funny Games“ fesselt den Leser von der ersten bis zur letzten Seite und gehört zur Pflichtlektüre eines jeden Fans des nächtlichen Geschehens in der Touristenmetropole.

Björn Jahner  www.der-farang.com

Quelle: Ausgabe 01 / Januar 2011:


• • •

Der neue Pattaya-Roman „Funny Games“ ist im Jahr 2010 im Edition Bamboo Sinfonia Verlag, Bangkok, erschienen und kann für 395 Baht direkt im FARANG-Medienhaus oder im FARANG-Buchshop auf der Webseite www.farang.co.th unter Abo und Bücher, plus Versandkosten, erworben werden.

Sonntag, 22. Mai 2011

Part 15 - Preah Vihear No Man's Land

3rd Avenue, 4th Gopura and Gallery

The 3rd Avenue is quite short. The long body of the Naga serpent borders both sides. Her seven faces directed North, starring at the arriving visitors.

The body of the Naga lines the 3rd avenue

View back to the King's Palace. A lion guards the entrance to the 4th Gopura

The sanctuary inside the gallery is the oldest part of Preah Vihear, consecrated to Shiva and supposedly built towards the end of the 9th century. The stones of the sanctuary were cut out of the nearby rocks at the edge of the escarpment. The traces are obvious. A gallery surrounds it.   

The gallery

Half of the sanctuary was destroyed by artillery, either by Thais or by Cambodian government troops fighting the Khmer Rouge, whose hard core remnants entrenched here until 1998.

This is the site that witnessed beginning and end of the Khmer Empire, happiness and atrocities, change of rulers and religions, eventful times. For a long time the Khmer kings ruled in the name of Lord Shiva the destroyer supported by Lord Vishnu the preserver.

Descendants of the Khmers visiting their ancient place of pride

The Siamese Kings, who would become the successors of the Khmers in this geography eventually, took over the godly tradition of the Khmer rulers and blended it with Buddhism. They abandoned Lord Shiva and saw themselves as deputies of Lord Vishnu the preserver on earth. This is still the case today, alleviated though. The Kings of the Chakri-Dynasty call themselves Rama, the 7th incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The Bangkok city seal shows Lord Indra riding a white elephant called Erawan, the government emblem or crest of Thailand depicts Garuda, the mystic bird and companion of Lord Vishnu. There are many other Hindu traditions celebrated in Thailand still today. Loy Krathong is one of them to name just one.

The lengthy name for Bangkok: “Krungthep Maha Nakhon Amorn Rattanakosin…” etc. does not contain a single reference to Lord Buddha or Buddhism, but to the Hindu Gods Lord Indra (Thai: Phra In) and Lord Vishnu (Thai: Phra Narai) only.

At the same time the Thai Kings considered and consider themselves as the supreme custodians of Buddhism. Thais don’t draw a sharp line between the Hindu pantheon and Buddha. Instead they absorb the Hindu Gods and convert them into servants and supporting companions of Lord Buddha. The Hindus do it the other way around. For them Lord Buddha is just one of the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu.  

Preah Vihear was dedicated to Lord Shiva. A Shiva lingam or a Shiva statue once decorated this small chamber inside the gallery at the topmost location. Today this small room is dedicated to Lord Buddha.

Sometimes in the 13th or 14th century the colourful Mahayana Buddhism strengthened in the Khmer Empire under the influence of Chinese traders. However, people never have been divided by their believe. They saw this as an enrichment to the heavens and just worshipped the idols of both religions at the same time. Same as is the case in Thailand today. The Ratchaprasong intersection in Bangkok is the best example for this attitude. The Hindu God Lord Brahma, the creator, Phra Prom in Thai, in the Erawan shrine enjoys the main attention among the Thai Buddhists. Lord Ganesh with the elephant head and Shiva's son in front of the CentralWorld shopping center is frequently visited by students before examinations and by entrepreneurs before setting up or investing into a new business.

The Mon culture and their more strict and back to the basics Theravada Buddhism eventually substituted the younger Mahayana Buddhism in the Khmer empire. Some historians claim that this was the beginning of the end of the divine and powerful Khmer rulers. These historians argument that Lord Shiva lost his role as the sole heavenly ruler and therefore his deputies on earth, the Khmer kings, along with him. To make matters worse, the Theravada Buddhism delivers the message that everybody is responsible for his own destiny and fate, inherits the potential to be enlightened and for this reason can end his suffering forever by not being reborn again.             

This might be a romantic view of believers, but is not failing some logic at least. The more obvious reasons for the fall of the Khmer Empire are much more down to earth however. The light at the end of the tunnel means demise for the Khmers and hope for the ambitious Siamese...

View through the hallways of the 4th Gopura

Cautionary Remark: Whoever intends to visit Preah Vihear / Khao Pra Wihan should ask for advice beforehand. As of now, May 2011, the place is closed for visitors. Thai and Cambodian troops face each other in close proximity. Renewed battles could emerge at any time.   

stay tuned... 

E-Nang - I Love Farang

...so heisst der Titel eines Thai-Films aus dem Jahre 2011. Mit "Farang" sind westliche Ausländer gemeint. Es ist ein Wort, dass umgangssprachlich in Thailand oft für Weissgesichter benutzt wird.

Im Folgenden eine Filmkritik von Louis Anschel

Inhalt: Liebe kennt keine Grenzen. E-Nang ist eine Komödie, die im Nordosten Thailands angesiedelt ist, dort wollen einige junge Frauen Männer aus dem Westen kennenlernen, weil sie auf das große Geld hoffen. Außerdem liegt es im Trend, wenn die Eltern einen Farang-Schwiegersohn haben.

Zur Zeit in den thailändischen Kinos

Sprache: Isan, mit thailändischen und englischen Untertiteln

Länge: 90 Minuten

Regie: Chinores Kamwandee


Als der Reviewer von dem Film erfuhr, erzählte er einem Freund, worum es gehen könnte: Ein Thai will verhindern, daß seine Freundin mit einem Farang anbandelt.

Und genaus so kam es auch, wobei angemerkt werden sollte, daß sich der Reviewer nun auch als Screenwriter bei der thailändischen Filmindustrie bewerben könnte.

Der Film spielt in einem Dorf irgendwo im Isan. Der Protagonist Mark ist schlecht in der Schule und fällt ständig durchs Examen. Anläßlich der Hochzeit eines Freundes kehrt er in sein Dorf zurück und trifft auf seine Jugendliebe Waewdao, Mark liebt sie nach wie vor und ist von ihren Plänen, sich einen Farang zu angeln, nicht begeistert. Er will alles dafür tun, daß sie sich ihm zuwendet und nicht einem Ausländer. 

Nebenbei wird noch die Geschichte von Marks Freund erzählt, der von seiner Frau verlassen wird, die in die große Stadt zieht, um dort einen Farang zu finden. 

Auf der anderen Seite kommen auch ein paar Farangs ins Dorf, um dort Thai-Frauen kennenzulernen.

In einer Beschreibung heißt es, daß „diese romantische Komödie einen unbeschwerten Blick auf die Gründe wirft, weshalb Isan-Frauen unbedingt Farangs heiraten wollen.“

So erklärte Regisseur Chinores in einem Interview, daß die meisten Frauen sich verlieben würden, finanzielle Interessen seien da, spielten aber nur eine untergeordnete Rolle.

Der Film verklärt den thailändischen Lebensstil, auch wenn mit Sauftouren der Freunde nicht gegeizt wird. Fast erinnert der Film in seiner Schwarzweißmalerei an einen Propagandafilm, in dem alle heiligen Werte verklärt werden.

Die Darstellung der Farangs ist auch durchaus diskussionswürdig. Zunächst einmal können alle fließend Thai sprechen, was ganz sicher nicht an der Tagesordnung ist... Da gibt es den einen, der seine Frau mit Gold behängt und sie gleichzeitig derartig mißhandelt, daß sie die Flucht ergreift und zu ihrem Thai-Ehemann zurückkehrt. Und da ist der andere Farang, der ein Frauenversteher ist, ihr auf den Zuckerrohrfeldern hilft und auch sonst alles für sie tut. Da ist die Hochzeit nur noch einen Filmschnitt weit entfernt. 

Während dieser Geschehnisse kämpft Mark um seine heißgeliebte Waewdao, die einen Farang heiraten will. Mit Losern wie Mark hat das hübsche Mädchen aber nichts am Hut.

Doch die Lösung liegt auf der Hand: Mark fängt endlich an zu lernen, damit er sein Examen bestehen kann. Er setzt auch einige landwirtschaftliche Projekte in die Tat um, die staatlich gefördert werden. Als das Happy End überstanden ist, bekommen er und Waewdao sogar eine Eigenheimzulage von der Regierung. 

Rückblenden, die an die Jugendzeit der beiden erinnern sollen, sind unschwer zu erkennen: Da wurde Mark einfach in eine Schuluniform gesteckt und Waewdao eine Perücke aufgesetzt – fertig. 

Der Film ist für Thais zum Schreien komisch – z. B. wenn Waewdao vom Fahrrad fällt, der Farang-Betrachter kann sich nicht einmal ein müdes Lächeln abringen, nur dann, wenn der Film unfreiwillig komisch wird – und das sind einige Stellen, an denen das der Fall ist, z. B. folgender Szenenablauf: Ein Thai kniet vor einem Schrein und bittet darum, daß seine Frau zu ihm zurückkehrt. Schnitt. Frau wird von Farang geschlagen. Schnitt. Frau kehrt zu Thai-Ehemann zurück. Das ist großes Erzählkino!

Das Beste aber zum Schluß. Mark und seinen Freunden platzt der Kragen, weil ihnen die Frauen abhanden kommen, insbesondere aber Waewdao, die sich mit einem Farang zum Abendessen verabredet hat. „Es wird Zeit zurückzuschlagen“, heißt es an dieser Stelle. Mark will aber keine Machete benutzen, sondern trällert ein Liedchen, um seine Liebe zu Waewdao zu beweisen. 

Auf der nach unten offenen Blödheitsskala bekommt dieser Film 2 von 10 Punkten.  

Louis Anschel

Samstag, 21. Mai 2011

Part 14 - Preah Vihear No Man's Land

The Ancient Prophecy and the June 1979 Incident

“One day the Khmer people will be forced to choose between being eaten by tigers or swallowed by crocodiles”, so the prophecy goes.

This prophecy became true several times in the history of this unfortunate country. The obvious tragedies happened in the 20th century.

The tigers came during the Vietnam war when the North-Vietnamese used Cambodian territory to transport supplies and weapons into South-Vietnam and the crocodiles came as Americans heavily bombarding large parts of Cambodia during the so called “secret war”, fought in Laos as well. The civilians suffered most.

The tigers came again after the Vietnam war, but not as outsiders. The Khmer Rouge suffocated the country between 1975 and 1979. The expression “The killing fields” is part of the worldwide conscious since then. It’s a miracle, that Cambodia recovered at all after their devilish reign. The crocodiles then again followed the tigers. The Vietnamese occupied Cambodia in 1979 and drove the Khmer Rouge to the Thai border. Before and at the same time hundred of thousands of common Khmer people crossed the border into Thailand seeking refuge.

But whoever thinks that the prophecy was concluded by then errs again. The Thai government used the invasion of Cambodia by the Vietnamese as an excuse to repatriate these refugees into Cambodia. And this was when the 2nd avenue at Preah Vihear became a death road and the scene of a tragedy. The Thai military gathered thousands of Khmers there by force at gun point and drove them down the steep and mine infested forest paths into Cambodia. Explosions rocked the environment whenever a Khmer refuge stumbled over a landmine. The ones who tried to return were shot. Again, the prophecy came true. The Khmers could only choose between the tigers, the Thai army and the crocodiles, the land mines. Many people died. Unimaginable the suffering of the refugees at that time at this very spot along the 2nd avenue of Preah Vihear.

The grounds of Preah Vihear remained the last resort of the Khmer Rouge until 1998.               

Bunkers and ordnances are witnesses of the times when Preah Vihear was used by the Khmer Rouge as a last heaven. Here, on top of the Dangrek escarpment, they could hold their position for almost 20 years more after the take over of Cambodia by the Vietnamese und successive local Khmer governments.

Easy to imagine the sporadic gunfire between Khmer Rouge and Thai soldiers at some weekends when alcohol was available and the stress caused by the usual boredom at this outpost could be turned into “fun”. This is not different today. There are many small clashes continuously that never find their way into the media. The bullet marks at the walls of Preah Vihear buildings are older than the recent clashes between 2008 and now and were clearly visible during our visit in December 2006.   

Left overs of the Khmer Rouge

The palace at the end of the 2nd avenue can be best viewed from the South side. It is the most impressive building of the Preah Vihear complex. The rooms inside have many stories to tell. To listen to them a local guide is recommended. Some of the Khmer students speaking quite a good English earn their pocket money this way.

The next blog is going to describe the oldest part of Preah Vihear, the sanctuary inside the „gallery“.

Cautionary Remark: Whoever intends to visit Preah Vihear / Khao Pra Wihan should ask for advice beforehand. As of now, May 2011, the place is closed for visitors. Thai and Cambodian troops face each other in close proximity. Renewed battles could emerge at any time.   

stay tuned... 

Dienstag, 17. Mai 2011

Part 13 - Preah Vihear No Man's Land

Time Travel Along the 2nd Avenue

The 2nd Avenue leads to the 3rd Gopura and to the King’s palace, the largest building of Preah Vihear. The palace is aligned along the East-West axis, thus forming along with the North-South avenues a huge cross. 

The 2nd avenue takes after the 1st avenue, cobbled with cut sandstones and on both sides aligned with pillars resembling lotus buds. The thirsty traveller finds mongers offering water, Cola, Black Label and the addicted finds cigarettes, mainly Malboro.


The Khmer Empire reached its first peak during the reign of King Suryavarman II (1113 – 1150). By then Ankor Wat, the power centre, was enlarged significantly. Preah Vihear was extended with the King’s palace at the end of the 2nd avenue. The Khmers ruled over a huge geography we call today Thailand, Laos and parts of Burma and Vietnam. Some historians claim that the Khmers even reached North Malaysia via Phuket.   

red: Khmer Empire

The geography was not deserted of course. The Mon in Thailand and Burma might have resisted ineffectively, they are not known as a military power or people in arms. Instead they blended their own Buddhist culture with the Hindu culture of the Khmers, other than the Cham in Laos and Vietnam, the still archenemy of the Khmers at that time. 802 AD, the date of the liberation from the Cham, is celebrated as the birthday of the Khmer nation. The Cham never gave up really, never got over their defeat. They overran Ankor Wat after the death of King Suryavarman II in 1177 AD and hit the Khmer empire at its very heart. 


Shortly before the 3rd Gopura a small slightly tilted building sits under the shade of a tree. It used to host a Shiva lingam presumably. The empty Cola tins inside are not forgotten rubbish but leftovers of a ritual praising Lord Shiva, who is still alive in the minds of the Khmers today. 


The Khmers recovered and rose to the supreme power again. King Jayavarman VII (1181 – 1218) expanded Ankor Wat and other Khmer Prasat (palaces) to the shape we can still admire today. Cleverly devised irrigation systems with countless water canals and ponds allowed for up to three rice harvests per year. Modern historians estimate that the area around Ankor Wat could easily feed almost one million people. The mix of peoples must have been impressive. People from all around the Khmer empire assembled there. They made up the richness of this vast Kingdom. The more people a Kingdom could accumulate the more powerful it was. Gaggles of farmers cared for the nourishment, tens of thousand of soldiers for defence and further extensions of the empire, not to forget the thousands of masons, carpenters, construction workers, architects and artists.          

End of the 2nd Avenue and 3rd Gopura

Preah Vihear was not an advanced outpost with just a Shiva lingam any more, but second to Ankor Wat a central and important part of the Khmer kingdom. Like other prasat (palaces) it was connected by partially cobbled roads leading to Ankor Wat. The analogy to Rome pops up in someone’s mind. “All roads lead to Ankor Wat”  

But even at the zenith of the Khmer empire an old prophecy still weighted heavily on the shoulders of this ancient nation during the 12th and 13th century AD…

Cautionary Remark: Whoever intends to visit Preah Vihear / Khao Pra Wihan should ask for advice beforehand. As of now, April 2011, the place is closed for visitors. Thai and Cambodian troops face each other in close proximity. Renewed battles could emerge at any time.   

stay tuned... 

Sonntag, 15. Mai 2011

Dumme Gedanken wieder einmal

...und dann sind da die Meister, die ihr Innerstes nach aussen kehren und glauben, dass dies die internationale Leserschaft interessieren muss. Sozusagen nach dem Motto, Mr. Normalbürger hat etwas wichtiges für die globale Bürgerschaft zu sagen. Vielleicht sogar für einen Afrikaner im Kral, falls er des Lesens mächtig ist. Man ist ja schliesslich ein einmaliges Individuum und damit von Interesse für die schweigende und dumpfe Allgemeinheit.

Ha ha! Auch dieser Blog hält mich offensichtlich nicht von Dummheiten ab. Nämlich der Dummheit, dass meine Worte wichtig wären. Zumindest weiss ich, dass sie völlig unnötig sind. Aber...

...ab und zu, selten zwar, versuche ich, meine Gedanken in Geschichten fassen. Die oft gestellte Frage an mich, ob sie authentisch sind, ist müssig. Jeder Geschichtenschreiber zehrt von seinen persönlichen Erfahrungen. Im Endeffekt bestimmt die Dramaturgie und der Plot die Handlung. Die Vorstellungskraft passiert im eigenen Kopf, eine Fliege wird zum Elefanten, ein Wunschgedanke zum wirklichen Buchgeschehen.

Wer schreibt, kommt nicht auf dumme Gedanken? Lieber Opa. Im Gegenteil, im Gegenteil....

Part 12 - Preah Vihear No Man's Land

As seen on a lintel at Preah Vihear

The Legend of “The Churning of the Milk Ocean”


Time was short. The demons gained strength by the minute, the Gods lost power by the second. Never mind that one second in the calendar of the Hindu heavenliest lasts 100,000 earth years.  
Lord Indra: “Any advice will do, Lord Vishnu. We need a miracle anyway…”
Lord Vishnu after taking a deep breath: “OK then, listen! We need to recover the long lost amrita, the nectar of strength, power and endless life.
Lord Indra: “What has to be done? Any idea?”
Lord Vishnu: “Of course. We need to churn the ocean until it releases this magical drink. 
Lord Indra: “Why don’t we start immediately? Let’s hurry up!”
Lord Vishnu: “But there’s a catch in it. We, deva, Gods, will not be able to do it alone. We are too weak meanwhile and have to find helping hands. Strong hands that is.”
Lord Indra: “Oh man, something bad is going down.“  
Lord Vishnu: “We need to convince the asura, demons, to support us.”
Lord Indra: “I was afraid of that. Why would they want to help us anyway? Unless we promise them something in return…oh no, Lord Vishnu…you really want to tell them, what we are after?”
Lord Vishnu: “Yes, we need to. The recovery of amrita is the only motivation that will make them co-operate with us.”
Lord Indra: “More than risky. If the asura get their hands on amrita we are lost for ever. I don’t see how we would be able to prevent them from doing so. Mission impossible.”
Lord Vishnu: “Trust me, Lord Indra, I know the answer.”

And so it came that the “good” and the “ugly bad” pulled the same string for a mutual task, the recovery of amrita. The dimensions of the churning device were huge. There was the “string”, a giant snake, named vasuki, her middle spiralled around the sacred mount meru, the center of all universes, that was used as a churning tool.
The asura pulled the head end of vasuki, the deva the tail end...back and forth, back and forth…for more than a thousand years, causing the mount to rotate. Sounds like a straightforward task, but it wasn’t.

Mount meru threatened to sink into the ocean.  Lord Vishnu was the first one to recognize this and transformed into a giant turtle. Thus supporting mount meru on his back and establishing a sound base. Not only that. The snake went hot and started to exhale a poisonous and deadly steam. Surprisingly it was Lord Shiva, the destroyer, who was willing to sacrifice himself by inhaling the lethal toxin, so it wouldn’t contaminate the entire universe . His lovely wife, Parvati,  and mother of Ganesh, the one with the elephant head, didn’t want her husband to die and jumped immediately to Shiva’s help, clinging her hands around his throat. Lord Shiva survived because the poison never reached his lungs, but he turned bluish like a strangled person for ever.

The churning went on. Both, the deva and the asura, never intending to let the other party get hold of amrita, the ultimate power drink.

Successively the ocean began to release its treasures.

·      A white elephant called Erawan
·      A holy cow and future companion of Lord Shiva
·      A white horse with a tail which could fulfil any wishes
·      A tree with the same characteristic
·      A Garuda and future companion of Lord Vishnu

Garuda, Thailand's government seal

·      The goddess of wine
·      A number of beautiful nymphs
·      Lakshmi, the long missed beautiful wife of Lord Vishnu

Finally, Dhanvantari, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, rose up out of the floods, a bowl filled with amrita in his hands. The fight for this mystical potion started immediately.  
The Garuda grabbed the bowl and flew away. On its way some drops of amrita rained down to earth. To be more precise at Prayag (Allahabad), Haridwar, Ujjain and Nasik. Since then these four locations radiate mystical powers. Every 12 years millions of Hindus assemble at these places for ritual bathing.        
Meanwhile Lord Vishnu transformed into a sexy nymph, named Mohini. His companions saw through his ploy and kept their eyes on the eventually returning Garuda. The asura, demons, however, went randy. Every single one of them trying to be the first one laying hands on this beautiful nymph.

When the Garuda returned he served amrita to the Gods who drank it eagerly. The world was saved. One of the demons, Rahu, played it smart though. He disguised as a God, stood in queue, caught a drought of amrita and was just about to swallow it when the observant Lord Vishnu recognized the fraud. He decapitated Rahu with one stroke of his sword. Too late for the head of Rahu. It remained immortal. Since then his mug decorates many Hindu and Buddhist chedis as a warning. It is told that Rahu can eclipse sun and moon.        

Grimaces of Rahu at Phra Buddha Bat Bua Bok, province Udon Thani, Thailand.

So far the legend of the churning of the ocean of milk. Its greatest depiction can be found at Ankor Wat. It’s 45 meters long. A modern one can be admired in the international airport Suvarnabhumi, Bangkok.

Suvarnabhumi airport Bangkok

The 2nd avenue and the 3rd Gopura will be subject of the next blog entry in this series about Preah Vihear.

Cautionary Remark: Whoever intends to visit Preah Vihear / Khao Pra Wihan should ask for advice beforehand. As of now, May 2011, the place is closed for visitors. Thai and Cambodian troops face each other in close proximity. Renewed battles could emerge at any time.   

stay tuned...