Temple Name: West Baray
Notable Features: The largest man-made lake of the ancient Khmer civilization.
Getting There: Located just west of Angkor Thom.
The Largest Man-Made Lake of the Ancient Khmer Civilization
A “baray” is a water reservoir built by the ancient Khmer people. The West Baray is the largest example of such a reservoir, and the only example that still holds water. Visitors to the baray are stunned by its enormity and natural appearance.
It is difficult to believe that the West Baray is an artificial lake and not a congenital one. This gargantuan reservoir is navigable by boat, up to 5 meters deep in places, and even contains its own man-made island.
To construct the West Baray, the Khmer people erected four earthen dikes in an 8 km by 2 km rectangle. Once the dikes were completed, rainwater filled the baray. Originally, the West Baray blanketed 1760 hectares of land with an average depth of 7 meters. Today, only the western two-thirds of the baray is filled with water and the average depth is about 4 meters.
It is believed that King Suryavarman I ordered the construction of the West Baray sometime in the 11th Century. According to archeological theory, the project was completed under the rule of King Udayadityavarman II, who reigned until 1066.
Today, the West Baray is fed by a series of channels, delivering water from the moats around the ancient city of Angkor Thom. Native Cambodians use the baray and its nourishing channels for irrigation, transportation, and tourism. Although a boat ride across the West Baray is not one of the most popular tourist activities in Cambodia, it is certainly one of the most awe-inspiring.