West Baray, or Baray Teuk Thla in Khmer which means “Clear Water Reservoir” in English, is large reservoir located to the west of Angkor Thom. It is 7.8km long and 2.1km wide and it is the largest baray built during the ancient Angkor era. It’s also one of the largest man-made reservoirs anywhere in the world with a maximum capacity of around 53 million m3.
In the middle of the baray, you’ll find West Mebon temple. In the dry season, you can walk out see the temple, but in the rainy season you have to take a boat.
West Baray is a popular spot for both Cambodians and locals to go for a swim, enjoy something to eat and relax with their friends and families.
- It doesn’t cost anything to visit West Baray, but if you want to sit in a hammock or hire a rubber ring, you will need to pay.
- You can ride a moto or cycle all around the baray, but the road gets very rough in places.
- The reservoir water is still used by local farmers in the area for their rice fields.
Use & Symbolism
It’s believed that the West Baray was built because the East Baray wasn’t big enough to support the ever expanding Angkor empire. The baray would have been a large holding tank for water which was then used during dry periods. This would have allowed farmers to create more than one rice crop per year. It’s also believed that West Baray was symbolic and that it represents the Sea of Creation in Hindy mythology.
Nowadays, a large lock has been added to the south side (which you’ll see as you first arrive). This is used to supply water to the fields to the south of the baray. Moreover, the site has become a popular place to visit with swimming, local food, and hammocks which attracts many visitors.
West Baray is around 12km from Siem Reap town and it’s easy to reach. Most people will take a tuk tuk, but it’s also possible to cycle if you don’t mind cycling on a main road.
To reach West Baray, head out of Siem Reap along National Road 6 heading towards the airport. Keep going straight when you get to the airport roundabout and continue for another 3 or 4 kilometres. Take a right turn and follow the road to the end.
When you reach West Baray, there is a steep hill. If you’re taking a tuk tuk, you’ll have to get off and walk up the hill.
Tours of West Baray usually include other nearby attractions such as the Angkor Silk Farm and a visit to the countryside. There are also cycling tours available which take you around the baray.
As you don’t need a temple pass to visit the area, tours are often combined with Siem Reap City Tours and other attractions in town such as the Angkor National Museum or the Cultural Village.
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There is nowhere to stay nearby and there are no hotels in the area. Many guests will find a hotel in Siem Reap town and make the short journey out to West Baray. In the town, there are hundreds of hotels to choose from. You’ll find everything from small family-run guest houses all the way to large international-standard resorts.
Why Visit West Baray?
West Baray is a popular place for tourists and locals. During the weekends and holidays, it’s particularly busy. You can rent rubber rings and swim in the baray. You can also sit in a hammock and enjoy something to eat by the water. It’s also possible to take a boat ride out to see West Mebon temple.
If you like to get off the beaten track, you can venture around the entire reservoir. The road on the south is pretty good as you pass Ak Yum temple and reach the south west side. As you go along the west and north side of the Baray, the road gets progressively worse until it becomes virtually non-existent. However, you will be able to pass on bicycles and motocycles at any time of the year, but taking a car is not advisable.
West Baray History
Construction of West Baray started under King Suryavarman I in the 11th century and completed under the reign of Udayadityvarman II. During construction on the vast reservoir, previously made sites were destroyed or submerged. The nearby Ak Yum temple was partially submerged by the water and only part of it still remains today.
Archaeological work in the area located an inscription stele which dates the temple from 713 AD. This means that there would have been a fairly large settlement in the area which was all but destroyed when West Baray was constructed.
In other places, however, West Baray seems to have incorporated earlier constructions. Part of King Yasovarman’s capital city with Phnom Bakheng at the centre was used in the construction on the east dike.
West Mebon also has historical significance and a large bronze statue of Vishnu was found in the area. Although this statue is no longer here, it is kept at the National Museum in Phnom Penh.
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