Khmer-era Phimai

Arriving in Phimai, it is very hard to miss the red sandstone Khmer temple which dominates the town centre and is over 1,000 years old.

Known then as " Vimayapura", the town was an important outpost of the Khmer Empire centred at Angkor, and its temple displays mixed Hindu and Buddhist iconography following the succession of the Buddhist King Jayavarman VII in the 12th century AD.

Chuchai Wisetjindawat frequently guides visitors around and his knowledge brings the temple alive: in one frieze, a monkey, one of Vishnu's retinue, is clearly picking his nose, a subversive bit of humour from an anonymous Khmer stone carver which has survived the centuries.

Imagining a bustling Vimayapura at the height of its Khmer splendour, might its inhabitants have known or treasured a silvery grey cat? Chuchai seemed to think it was possible, as his in-depth knowledge of the area and its traditions points to origins at the nearby villages of Ban Tamyae or Ban Rang Ka. We did not talk about this much further, but here they are located on Google maps relative to Phimai: a few kilometers east or west, an easy walk for a cat.

Suggestively, this poster about the Korat Cat is viewable in the Phimai Historical Park Visitor Centre.

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All text and photos © Martin Clutterbuck 2012-3, unless otherwise indicated.

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