Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat in Cambodia
the world's largest religious monument built in the 12th century
now a world heritage site
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 Roeung ‘Mea Yeung’ & Neang Kanh-choeu Tlouh

Story of
'Our Uncle' & a Woman with Holes in her Basket

Once upon a time, there lived in great misery a poor fisherman called Mea-Yeung’. He had a beautiful but very lazy and careless
wife. She was known as ‘Srey kanh-choeu-tlouh’ or ‘A woman with holes in her basket’. Every day, the couple would go together to
the nearby river to try to catch enough fish so they could use some to trade for rice and keep some for the day’s meal.


One day, as usual, the man used ‘Ang-rut’, a type of fishing tool (photo on the left), and was trying very hard to catch fish. His wife was wading behind him with an old 'kanh-cheu', a type of deep bamboo basket (photo below) to collect the fish he caught. She noticed that there were a few holes in the basket through which the fish escaped one by one; but she did nothing to stop it. She thought to herself that they had more than enough for today, so there was no reason why they would need more.

At one point a merchant boat passed by. The wife of the boat owner, known as ‘Neang Krup-Laek or ‘a perfectly virtuous lady’, spotted the fish escaping from the basket. She called out to the fisherman’s wife: ‘Hey, why don’t you use something to block up the holes in your basket to prevent your fish from escaping?’

This drew her husband’s attention to the fisherman’s wife. He found the woman very beautiful and was instantly attracted to her.
So, he came up with an idea of how to get rid of his wife. He then pretended to be angry with his wife by accusing her of not minding
her own business. He called her a bad woman and that she deserved to be the poor fisherman’s wife instead. He then turned to the
fisherman and demanded that they swap wives. The poor fisherman, who was very afraid of the rich merchant, did not dare to object.

After the initial shock, the wife of the rich merchant, being a perfectly virtuous lady, respected her husband’s wish and agreed to do
what he ordered. ‘Srey kanh-choeu-tlouh’ was overjoyed at the prospect of becoming the wife of a rich man. She could see herself
being a lady of leisure and would not have to work for a living any more.


Neang Krub-laek got off the boat onto the riverbank to be with her new husband. She took the basket from the other woman and began to patch the holes in the 'kanh-cheu', (photo of new baskets on the left) using grass from the river bank. It turned out to be a good day for the fisherman. He caught a lot of fish - in fact so many that Neang Krub-laek suggested that they share some with their neighbours. As time went by, Neang Krub-laek proved herself to be very friendly, kind and helpful to the people around her. In return, she was much loved and respected by everyone. In consequence, she and Mea-Yeung lived in perfect harmony with their neighbours.

Srey kanh-choeu-tlouh, the new wife of the rich merchant enjoyed her rich lifestyle and was even blessed with a son. However,
being a lazy person, instead of washing the silk cloth which she used as the baby’s nappy and re-using it, she just threw the
dirty one into the river and used a brand new piece of cloth each time. Neang Krub-laek, whilst helping Mea-Yeung with his
fishing, noticed the silk cloths floating around, collected them, washed and re-used them in her household.

Due to her lazy and careless nature, Srey kanh-choeu-tlouh did not help or support her husband in his business. Instead she spent
through her husband’s fortune. Before long, their wealth and the boat had gone and they became very poor. They were reduced
to begging from house to house.

Meanwhile, during his free time, Mea-Yeung, the fisherman, would go and chop wood for his household use. One day, when he
returned home with some wood, his wife recognised it as a type of precious wood. She recommended that he stop fishing and
instead concentrate on cutting the wood which she would sell. He agreed and through the sales of this precious wood, they
became very wealthy.

As money was no object to them anymore, Neang Krub-laek suggested to her husband that he should stop working. He refused
to do so as he could not see himself stay home and do nothing. She then suggested that he take up running to stay healthy.
To please her, he agreed and started to run. Being used to hard work, Mea-Yeung didn’t do anything by half. He practised his
running every day and before long became the quickest runner in the area. Having noticed her husband’s new acquired talent,

Neang Krub-laek arranged to have him introduced to the king who offered him a job at the palace.

Every day, she would send her husband off to work for the king with a delicious packed lunch. One day, the King decided to go
for a horse ride in a forest far away. As he had the best horse in the country, the king overtook everyone in his entourage. Only
Mea-Yeung who was running alongside the king’s horse, managed to keep up with him. Having got lost and finding himself alone
in the forest with Mea-Yeung, the king stopped to have a rest under a big shady Banyan tree. He became very hungry and
gratefully accepted Mea-Yeung’s offer of his delicious lunch.  

After the long ride and the delicious lunch, although feeling a bit tired, the King was satisfied and very pleased with Mea-Yeung .
He lay down on the grass with his head on Mea-Yeung’ s thigh, then looked up at him and said:

‘I am going to tell you a story … Once upon a time …..’ followed by silence – the King fell asleep.

It so happened that, when the angels of the forest heard that the King was about to tell a story, they became excited. They could
not wait to hear the story too. However, having realised that the King had fallen asleep and did not tell the story as promised,
they were very angry and disappointed. They then considered him as a non-virtuous King for not having kept his promise. They
agreed amongst themselves that they didn’t like a King who lied, so they plotted to kill him.

‘We will kill this King by breaking a big branch of the tree and dropping it on him. If he escapes that, we’ll cause the palace arch
to fall on him as he enters the palace. Should he manage to survive that incident, one of us will turn ourselves into a big poisonous
snake to bite him when he is asleep tonight.’

Mea-Yeung over-heard the angels’conversation. He woke the King up, quickly pushed him into the open and helped him to get on
his horse. Just as the King was climbing onto the horse, a big branch fell right on the very spot where he had been sleeping.
Regaining his composure, whilst riding away, the King asked: ‘Tell me … what’s happening?’ Whilst running alongside the horse,

Mea-Yeung explained:

‘His Majesty, the angels of the forest are very angry with you for not telling the story as you promised. So, they planned to kill
you by dropping a large branch on you.’ The King thanked Mea-Yeung and quickly tried to find his way back to the palace. On
the way, Mea-Yeung took the opportunity to warn the King about the angels’ other plans to kill him.

The King was very alarmed and wondered how he could avoid being killed. Mea-Yeung came up with an idea and the King agreed.
As the horse approached the palace gate, Mea-Yeung used a whip and forced the horse to jump very high over the palace wall
instead of going through the gate. As expected, the arch of the palace gate suddenly collapsed but the King was safe beyond it.

That night, all the palace guards had special orders to watch out for the giant snake. The King asked Mea-Yeung to stay in his
bedroom to protect him and his Queen. When the silence of the night enveloped the palace, all of a sudden Mea-Yeung saw an
enormous snake appear next to the King’s bed. With all his might and with great agility, Mea-Yeung chopped the giant snake’s
head off with his sword. Not wanting to disturb the King and Queen, he hid the dead snake under the King’s bed and intended
to wait until morning to clear it up.

Whilst quietly mopping up the snake blood from the floor, Mea-Yeung noticed that there was some snake blood on the Queen’s
breast. He thought to himself that the Queen would be terrified to see the blood on her body when she woke up. For that reason,
he decided he must get rid of the blood for her. But … how? Due to his respect for the Queen, he knew he should not use his
fingers. After much thought, he used his tongue to lick off the blood from the Queen’s breast.

The touch of Mea-Yeung' s tongue woke the Queen up and she was horrified by what she saw. She started screaming which also
woke the King. She told her husband what she thought was happening – Mea-Yeung had been molesting her. Believing his wife’s
account, the King was furious, too furious to think straight. Not allowing Mea-Yeung time to explain, he ordered that Mea-Yeung
be taken out of the palace to be killed straight away.

The guards carefully tied Mea-Yeung’s hands behind his back and walked him to the East gate. The official in charge of the East
gate wouldn’t let them out. The official explained that it was against palace rules to kill a criminal at night time without having
ascertained his guilt first. In order to back up his position, the East gate official started to tell the guards a story of
A Woman with a Mongoose’ . The guards realised that the official really meant what he said. So, they decided to walk
Mea-Yeung to another gate.

At the South Gate, the official said the same thing to the guards. To prove his point, the official told the guards a story of a
Tycoon and his Five Hundred Dogs’ . Once again, the guards could tell that this official too was adamant not to open the gate
for them, they therefore had no choice but to go to the West Gate where the official in charge there told them the same thing: 
‘According to the palace rules, no criminal is allowed to be killed at night time before his/her crime has been properly investigated’.
He too had a story to tell – a story that set the palace rules in the first place. It was about a ‘King and his Parrot’ .

After having heard those three stories told by the officials of the East, South and West Gates, the guards were convinced that the
officials were right to prevent them from leaving the palace before dawn. However, as they had been given their orders by the
King, to protect their heads, they felt they had to press on to carry out their duties. When reaching the North Gate, they requested
that the door be opened so they could take Mea-Yeung out and kill according to the King's order.

By this time, day break had arrived and the King had woken from his sleep. He remembered last night’s events and realised he
had been hasty in ordering Mea-Yeung’s death. Having known Mea-Yeung for some time, the King couldn’t understand this
behaviour which seemed out of character for Mea-Yeung. He immediately sent word to bring Mea-Yeung back to him alive.

As the sun was rising, the official at the North Gate was about to open the door for the guards. Luckily for Mea-Yeung, the
King’s word reached them just in time and so the guards brought him back to the King.

As soon as the King saw Mea-Yeung, he demanded an explanation for his behaviour with the Queen the night before. Mea-Yeung,
still in a state of shock, haltingly described what had happened. To begin with the King was not convinced by the story and
requested evidence. Mea-Yeung suggested that the King send someone to look under the bed. A few moments later, servants
returned with the body parts of the giant snake.

Having realised his grave mistake, the King felt guilty for being impulsive and indebted to Mea-Yeung for having saved his life
three times and as a reward, appointed him to be one of the highest ranking officials in the Palace.