The East Baray, a reservoir built due east of Angkor Thom, is an impressive 7.5 kilometres long by almost two kilometres wide. Despite its size, it’s a feature of the Angkorian landscape many tourists are utterly unaware of as it’s almost impossible to notice on ground level to the untrained eye — it has since dried up. It’s well worth looking at on an aerial map and satellite images for a better sense of the scale and diversity of the Angkor area as it once was – it was not all about temples.
After completion, it was fed its water via a canal from the Roulos river that emptied into its northeastern corner. When full to a planned depth of four metres, the baray held a massive 55 million cubic metres of water, forming an integral part of the complex hydraulic system that ensured rice irrigation to support the population at the time (at least according to one school of academic thought).
Today there is no water to speak of — but towards the centre sits the East Mebon on a purpose-built elevated temple island. What a splendid sight it must have been when the baray was full, arriving here by boat across what must have felt like much more than an over-sized lake.
The East Baray today is grassland and farmland – hamlets are scattered across the site where sandy tracks weave across the terrain between paddy. Today visitors head to the water-filled West Baray – a popular local spot – or to the North Baray which was re-filled with water only in recent times, which help provide an understanding of how the East Baray would also have once been.
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