Little is known about LOVEK, the capital of Cambodia during the reign of King An Chan in the sixteenth century. It was captured by the Siamese in the latter part of the century, and the name has been passed down through a well-known local legend as much as anything else. Today a sparse village stretches across the site, consisting of a few houses, a school and two fine shrines at the farthest reaches: the larger Wat Preah Kaew (Pagoda of the Emerald Buddha) and Wat Preah Ko (Pagoda of the Sacred Cow) a little further beyond on the same site. In both wats, every inch of wall is painted with colourful murals of the legend. To the south of Wat Preah Ko is a two-metre, smiling green-marble Buddha surrounded by bowls of water that worshippers use to bathe him.
Finding Lovek is a bit of a challenge; to reach the village by moto, head north from Oudong on National Route 5 in the direction of Kompong Chhnang; after 12km take the turning at the small blue sign on the right for Traleng Keng Pagoda site. Beyond the concrete portico flanked by golden lions, the village stretches along a 5km straight track, before it bends at a right angle towards the shrines. You could get as far as the main road turning on the Phnom Penh–Kompong Chhnang bus, but the driver will need clear instructions.Read More
The legend of Lovek
The legend of Lovek
When Lovek was capital, it was said to house two statues of Preah Ko and Preah Kaew which contained sacred texts, written in gold, recording “all the knowledge and wisdom in the world”. During one of the periodic conflicts between the Thai and Khmer, the Thai army was encamped outside Lovek, which it had repeatedly failed to capture, and it was about to make its seasonal retreat in advance of the rains. The story goes that the Thai fired a cannon loaded with silver coins into the bamboo thickets that afforded the city some natural protection. During the rainy season, the Khmer gradually cleared the bamboo in their search for the coins, such that the Thai were easily able to capture the city in the following dry season. Removing the statues to Ayutthaya, the Thai were able to read the sacred texts and so became more knowledgeable than the Khmer. The legend has it that the statues are still hidden in Bangkok and that when they are returned to Cambodia the country will once again have ascendancy over Thailand.