Little left to see
Published/Last edited or updated: 27th July, 2017
Built atop an artificial island in the waters of the West Baray, other than two still-standing gopuras there isn't all that much else left to see of the original West Mebon.
Built upon the orders of Udayadityavarman II, on an island at the centre of the West Baray, it is thought that the central sanctuary here was made up of three pavilions, perhaps constructed partly of wood, as that would explain why there is so little left today. What remains leans towards the trees with building blocks scattered around the grounds of the island along with some simply fashioned rows of stairs.
The pavilions, with a sandstone platform at their centre, would have enjoyed impressive views out over the baray, and it shouldn't take too much imagination to conjure up the setting, especially in the wet season when the baray is brimming with water. The island would have originally have been connected to the shore by probably an earthen causeway, but today it is reached by boat, which can easily be arranged upon arrival.
In 1936 a massive bronze statue of a reclining Vishnu image was discovered at the West Mebon, apparently after a local villager had a dream of finding a statue on the island. Only the upper portion of the torso, head and some arms (all in a single piece) were recovered and it is believed the original statue would have been around six metres in length. Today it is stored in the National Museum in Phnom Penh.
Stuart McDonald co-founded Travelfish.org with Samantha Brown in 2004. He has lived in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, where he worked as an under-paid, under-skilled language teacher, an embassy staffer, a newspaper web-site developer, freelancing and various other stuff. His favourite read is The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton.
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