Wat Nokor Bachay

Wat Nokor Bachay

Temple within a temple

More on Kompong Cham

Wat Nokor Bachay is a kind of Russian doll temple, with a relatively modern pagoda buried within the walls of an Angkorian temple dating back to the era of Jayavarman VII. This was the warrior king who also built Bayon, Ta Prohm, Preah Khan, Banteay Chhmar, and many, many more.

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Angkorian ruins in the midst of a modern pagoda complex. Photo by: Nicky Sullivan.
Angkorian ruins in the midst of a modern pagoda complex. Photo: Nicky Sullivan

Embedded within the inner walls, a working pagoda with a beautiful tiled floor and painted pillars offers a shady respite from the heat outside, and you may come across some monks or nuns there. The old and the new, despite their very distinct styles, blend together well.

More boundaries can be seen further outside the temple grounds, in scenes that blend in ancient Angorian structures with a more recent Chinese cemetery, and modern working pagoda buildings.

A quiet retreat from the world. Photo by: Nicky Sullivan.
A quiet retreat from the world. Photo: Nicky Sullivan

Oedipal stories seem to be common currency around Kompong Cham. According to one legend told about Wat Nokor, two of the stupas within the temple were built by the son of the prince who had originally constructed the temple, Preah Bath Bachay Bachas. His son was sent to China while only four years old, where he was trained and then kept as a valuable advisor to the emperor.

But his yearning for his homeland finally overcame him in his 30s and he returned, living incognito and taking the name Prom. He took refuge with a beautiful widow, whom he eventually married. When she confessed that she had been the dead prince’s bride, he realised to his horror that he had married his own mother.

Blends of old and new(ish). Photo by: Nicky Sullivan.
Blends of old and new(ish). Photo: Nicky Sullivan

In order to restrict the damage to their respective karmas, his mother instructed him to build twin, opposing stupas within his father’s temple to store the remains after their deaths. At least, that’s what the legends ... Travelfish members only (Full text is around 200 words.)

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Reviewed by

Nicky Sullivan is an Irish freelance writer (and aspiring photographer). She has lived in England, Ireland, France, Spain and India, but decided that her tribe and heart are in Cambodia, where she has lived since 2007 despite repeated attempts to leave. She dreams of being as tough as Dervla Murphy, but fears there may be a long way to go. She can’t stand whisky for starters. She was a researcher, writer and coordinator for The Angkor Guidebook: Your Essential Companion to the Temples, now one of the best-selling guidebooks to the temples.

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