A great spot to swim and picnic
What we say:
Constructed during the reign of Suryavarman I, the baray measures 8km by 2.2km, has an average depth of some 7m and holds in total around 123 million cubic litres of water. As with the East Baray there is a temple island at the lake's centre, the West Mebon.
The baray is a very popular picnic spot with the locals, and the southern and southwestern shores of the lake are lined with snack and drink stalls. It's very pleasant during a hot day in the rainy season but when water levels get a bit low during March and April the place can get a bit grubby. Boats can be hired to tour you around the lake for $20 -- a bit pricey but they do comfortably fit eight people. Alternately, the hammocks are a steal at 5,000 riel.
The area under the Western Baray was an important habitation site for a long period before the baray's construction. Remains of a prehistoric settlement dating to around 3,000 BC have been discovered under the reservoir's waters and a large pre-Angkor city, located in the southwestern quadrant of the lake, had to be abandoned with the onset of construction work on the site.
Back in the seventh century Jayavarman I's city of Purandurapura was probably located in this area, possibly around the Prei Khmeng temple. Another early city, Aninditapura, capital of Jayavarman's daughter Queen Jayadevi, was probably centred on the ancient temple of Ak Yum. Today both temple sites are little more than piles of bricks but Ak Yum, located right by the road running along the baray's south bank, is worth a stop if you're passing by. More seventh and eighth century temples were certainly lost beneath the waters of the baray.
More detailsHow to get there: The baray is down a tarmac road that turns off just about six kilometres to the west of Siem Reap, and getting there by tuk tuk or moto is a simple matter. The area is frequented by Khmer families so even if you are going for a swim, be mindful to respect local customs by dressing modestly.
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