The West Mebon is a small temple in ruins located on the central manmade island of the historical reservoir West Baray. The West Baray, in contrast to the now dry former East Baray, is filled with water, at least partly. It has become a local recreational area. Motorboats for a trip to the West Mebon island are available at the southern dam of the Baray. Only at the end of the dry season the West Mebon sometimes becomes reachable by land.
The West Mebon was built on the orders of King Udayadityavarman II in the eleventh century. Originally each side had three tower-passages. Today only the east wall and its Gopurams are still standing. The compound encompasses a large square pond with a sandstone platform in the centre. It was linked to the eastern wall by a laterite and sandstone causeway. In the middle of the platform was a spiral stairway around a well. It was probably used to gauge the level of the reservoir. This may have been merely functional for indicating when the surrounding paddy fields could be flooded. Because of the immense role of water supply in Angkor's religious symbolism it seems not unlikely that celebrations were held here in order to lay down the correct day for the opening of the floodgates.
The stone carvings at the eastern wall are in a fair condition. They include some of the first examples of animals in natural, non-mythological scenes. They are set in small squares. There are similar animal carvings at the contemporary state temple Baphuon.
West Mebon originally housed a gigantic bronze Vishnu statue which was excavated in 1936. The modern legend has it, that a local villager dreamt an image of the Buddha was buried in the West Mebon and wished to be recovered from the soil. What was found by Maurice Glaize, is a Vishnu Anantashayin, the god reclining on the serpent Ananta. It is the largest known bronze sculpture in Khmer art, but only in fragments, Vishnu's head, upper torso, and two right arms. It is now exposed in the National Museum in Phnom Penh. The complete statue must have measured about six metres in length.
The best time to visit the West Mebon is the morning. The ticket will usually not be checked, but this could change. However, you must pay for the boattrip.