When you look at East Mebon today, surrounded by grass, trees, a road a matter of metres away and Apsara ticket guards at the base checking the flow of tourists arriving by foot, it is hard to imagine that when it was actually in use, East Mebon would have been surrounded completely by water and foot access would simply not have existed.
Built under the eye of Rajendravarman II, East Mebon was dedicated in 953 AD and has landing stages at its cardinal points where other temples might have causeways; it sits in an area that was formerly the East Baray – ancient Angkorian reservoir – which has since dried up.
The three-tiered temple, with five brick towers on a sandstone base, is not as steep as mountain temples or with as many levels to it – likely because it was built on softer foundations, which wouldn’t have taken such weight – but nonetheless was similarly meant to be a representation of Mount Meru.
East Mebon is especially noteworthy for its large elephant statues positioned at the corners of the pyramid’s levels; in particular the one at the southeast corner of the second level. These outward-facing elephants were placed to act as temple guardians. The lintels found in the sanctuaries are another draw thanks to their excellent condition.
Nearby Pre Rup temple was built by the same king, also in the former Baray. More head to Pre Rup for sunset, but East Mebon offers a similar atmosphere.
By Caroline Major
Last updated on 31st January, 2015.