The ancient Khmer of Angkor had an elaborate irrigation system. As part of this system, they made huge artificial bodies of water called barays. Even in the dry season, as the water level dropped across the country, these barays still had water. Although they helped irrigate the crops and support the people, the water also had religious purpose. Built out in the water were several manmade islands holding Hindu temples.
One of these islands is now known as Neak Pean, the Entiwined Serpents.
The tuk tuk dropped me off on the side of the road and I walked over to the entrance. The ranger guarding the site checked my pass, and I entered the site. At first I was confused. I couldn’t see anything special. So, I kept walking. On either side of the dirt path the ground sloped away into the trees. Soon, water started licking at the bases of the trees. Then, the path ended.
Where the dirt stopped, a wooded ‘bridge’ began. It seemed temporary, like something you put up after a heavy storm. Maybe in the dry, you can walk across the ground the whole way. Instead, I walked on boards, the trees and bushes still sticking up from the water around me.
Eventually, I reached the island. While you can image the grandeur that once was, the island is mostly in disrepair.
At one time, a series of four pools surrounded a central ring, which itseld encircled a larger pool. In the middle of the center pool, a small shrine stood. Four animal fountains flanked this shrine, one for each of the outer pools.
The pools all remain. One, the furthest from the entrance, has become a frog pond. I was serenaded by their peeps as I walked closer. The other three outer pools remain, as does the inner pool. The shrine is there as well, but the fountains are gone. I noticed pieces of a horse, but that was all.
Where the outer pools meet the central ring there are recesses holding shrines. Gold icons sit beside smoking incense. You could easily miss these, as they are invisible from above. You need to walk down along the water’s edge in order to see in. In some cases, the cracked path has worn down to mere stepping stones across the entrance.
This shrine is only a small part of the island. The trees covering the rest of the area provide a nice shade. Tourists and locals alike lounged in the shade among the trees. I even noticed some chickens in the brush as I left to go on toward my next temple.
Korean word of the post: 닉 뽀안 (nik bbo-an) Neak Pean
Chinese word of the post: 涅盤宮 (nie4 pan2 gong1) Neak Pean
Khmer word of the post: ប្រាសាទនាគព័ន្ធ (neak pean) Neak Pean/’entwined sepents’