West Baray Temple Safari

The Angkorian Empire was one of the great civilizations that lasted for 500 years before Harold met William the Conqueror in 1066 And All That until Henry VIII to put in a British context. The Angkorians unlike most of the other great civilizations were never defeated unless you call running out of water defeat.

West Baray in dry season

The empire at its peak stretched across Thailand, modern day Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam but is now remembered for its capitol of Angkor and the three temple cities of Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm.

As one of the man-made wonders of the world its significance and spectacle attracts millions of visitors each year but don’t let that put you off. A few hundred meters off the main tourist circle and you’ll feel like Harrison Ford finding the Lost Ark.

The South Gate of Angkor Thom

Angkor Thom is the largest of the cities at Angkor. It’s a perfect square with 3km walls so 9kmwhich require a holiday to discover by itself but today we’re here to ride its walls. 

The South West Corner of Angkor Thom

Ten meters high, looking across the moat to brilliant green rice paddy’s studded with sugar palm trees and the odd farmer working in the fields.

A red earth road through a small, stilted village leads us to Prasat* Chanta Oun. A dusky red damsel fly is perched on a stick over the clear waters of the moat surrounding the temple. A friendly memory hangs over the stones.

*Prasat is temple in Khmer

Prasat Chan-ta-oun

Banteay Thom feels more serious. While its walls remain more or less intact its remote location to the rest of Angkor meant it was badly looted but still to be seen are exquisite dancing Apsara

Banteay Thom

Back on the red earth road we’re heading West across lush countryside in the rainy season to Prasat Cha. Now reduced to a few dragons’ teeth, Sanskrit inscriptions in the stone door frames give clues as to its construction but that a five headed dragon is said to appear to those who read what is written there.

Prasat Cha

Two hundred years back in time and we’re swapping the Angkorians for the preceding Chenla civilization who left their mark with the scorched brick Hindu temple of Prasat Kok Poh.

Prasat Kok Poh

Spean Memay or the laterite* Bridge of The Mirror, now crosses a field (dry outside the rainy season) when once it had mirrored the channel below that flowed a hundred kilometers West. 

*An igneous rock used to build the temples

Spean Memay

The West Baray is our final destination, built a thousand years ago it was until the 19th at 8km long and 2km wide, the largest completely manmade reservoir in the world and only took twenty thousand men working side by side, two years to build.

The West Baray in the rainy season

A bamboo platform, BBQ’d chicken and cold beer await at the corner of the Baray in a local weekend resort, or a picnic under the shade of an umbrella.

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