West Baray is the largest manmade reservoir of the ancient Khmers. I cannot begin to give you an idea of its size. When I took a boat on it, it felt like travelling in a lake. I had to keep reminding myself that this lake was man made a thousand years ago.
Just consider the dimensions of West Baray: eight kilometres long and two kilometres wide. It originally covered an area of 1760 hectares and had an average depth of 7 meters, holding 123 million cubic litres of water. Today only the western two thirds are covered with water, and it reaches a depth of 4-5 meters. The rest of it has been turned into paddy fields.
West Baray is the only baray left that still has water in it (apart from Srah Srang, which is too "small" to be considered a baray). I had the good fortune of West Baray by boat. The view was simply superb.
The West Baray used to be filled only by rain water. Nowadays, with the construction of a barrage on the Stung Siem Reap not far from the temple of Ta Nei, it is replenished by a system of channels which make use of the north and part of the west moats of Angkor Thom.
At the centre of West Baray is the small temple of West Mebon. It was built in the same style as the Baphuon.
West Baray is believed to have been completed around the 11th century. Its eastern dike corresponds with the western limit of Yasodharapura, the first Angkor city centred on Phnom Bakheng. It is similar to the East Baray which is now dry and started towards the end of the 9th century, during the reign of Yasovarman.
Traces of ancient pathways and the remains of buildings found in the baray suggests that the area must have been inhabited before the baray was built. Perhaps the most visible sign of this is the ruins of Ak Yum, which was built earlier than the West Baray.
Construction DetailsBuilt in the 11th Century
started by King Suryavarman I (reigned 1001-1050)
completed by King Udayadityavarman II (reigned 1050-1066)
How to reach West BarayWest Baray is not a major sight in Angkor, and there is likelihood that it will not be included in most packaged tours. To visit the West Baray on your own, leave Siem Reap by Route 6 (the main road to the airport) in the direction of Sisophon towards the north-west. After 12 km, turn right on the road leading north. Travel for another 500 metres to arrive at the south-west dyke of the West Baray.