Location : Siem Reap
The largest artificial reservoir (8 x 2.2km) in the Angkor Park, called the West Baray is located near Angkor Thom city. In ancient times, the Baray was supplied by fresh water that came from two main sources: The Siem Reap and Puok Rivers. The reservoir was probably built by the great king, Suryavarman I, during whose reign the whole Angkor Empire was greatly expanded. This construction was finished in the second half of the 11th century by king Udayadityavarman II, who built, in the centre of the West Baray, a small temple called West Mebon on an island where the bronze statue of the ‘Reclining Vishnu’ was found. This sculpture is now exhibited at the National Museum of Cambodia in Phnom Penh. According to some researchers, the West Baray was built because the East Baray could not be relied upon for water storage.
According to a legend, the young daughter of a ruler of Angkor was grabbed by an enormous crocodile, which made a large opening in the south dyke of the West Baray that can still be seen today. The crocodile was capture and killed. The princess, still living in its stomach, was rescued.
According to an excavation in the 1960s, there must have been a prehistoric site near the Ak Yum temple. The west part of Baray was constructed on the north part of an old city surrounded by a moat called ‘Banteay Chheu’, a name given after a village to the south of this city. The city must have survived through many reigns as many temples were built there.
Following is the description of some temples to the northwest of the West Baray.
Phnom Rung is about 1.8km from the northern dike of the West Baray. This temple was a square sanctuary of brick on a high mound, open to the east with false doors on the remaining sides. Afthough this temple is ruined; some pieces of brick and sandstones remain as proof of its construction and structure in the Pre-Angkorian period.
Kuk Po, located approximately 2.5km from Prasat Phnom Rung, was built in the 8th century to dedicate to Brahmanism. In the 9th century, the King Jayavarman III had conducted some restaurations and made a bilingual inscription in Sanskrit and Khmer, narrating his donation to the god of the temple. The temple was continuously used for worship as many statues from different periods have been found at the site.
Spean Thma ‘Stone Bridge’ or Spean Memay ‘Widows’ Bridge’ is located close to the northwest corner of the West Baray along the ancient road to Sdok Kok Thom temple. It is built of laterite and measures 79m in length and 9m wide, with 21 arches.
During your discovery of Khmer architectural and historic values at the temples, you may also enjoy the admirable village landscape, rice fields and vegetable gardens along the road to the temples.