West Baray

A great spot to swim and picnic

What we say: 3 stars

There may be no beach in Siem Reap, but we do have a baray which, when you look into it, is arguably much cooler. The West Baray is an enormous reservoir that was most likely constructed during the 11th century. At 8,000 metres long and 2,100 metres wide, it is equivalent in size to more than 2,000 football pitches, and was built by hand.

Low tide: dry season at the baray

Low tide: dry season at the baray.

A small island sits in the centre of the baray where you’ll find the dilapidated remains of West Mebon temple. The temple is built in the same style as Baphuon, beside Bayon, hence the assumption that the Baray was built during the 11th century. Otherwise, we know very little about why it was built. Theories have suggested that it was used for irrigation, though this has been largely discarded, or for ceremonial purposes, or for flood management.

Hope it's as tasty as it is pretty

Hope it's as tasty as it is pretty

Today though it is used mostly for leisure purposes; you can chill out in a hammock, swim in the water, enjoy a delicious picnic of barbecued chicken or fish, and take a ride across the water to the island on one of the boats.

Trying to photograph hammocks with the wrong lens

Trying to photograph hammocks with the wrong lens.

Though less well documented than the law on gravity, the law that picnics taste better on islands is considered by experts to be equally well-established.

Not quite Rotterdam, but it gets quite busy sometimes

Not quite Rotterdam, but it gets quite busy sometimes.

The boat hire is a little pricey, at $20, but you can easily fit about eight people into one which makes it work out a little bit better if you’re running in a pack. The hammocks however are a bargain at 5,000 riel.

The lake

The lake.

If you’re not into any of that, there’s a reasonably nice walk around the levee that functions as a dyke around the baray. It’s 20 kilometres all the way around, so unless you’re feeling really ambitious, don’t plan on circumnavigating the whole thing. It’s a good idea to bring water and sunscreen no matter how long you’re planning to walk for though.

Loads of Cambodians come here to cool off in the reservoir

Loads of Cambodians come here to cool off in the reservoir.

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.

Behind the lake

Behind the lake.

It’s a very popular family leisure spot with locals as well, so even if you are planning on a swim please remember to respect local customs and dress modestly.

More details
How 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.
Last updated: 12th October, 2014


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