Neak Poan is an elegant monument in Siem Reap that is famous for its miraculous healing properties. Its modest setup of five ponds with a tower in the middle may seem like a simple park attraction to outsiders but this ancient sanctuary is an oasis that is continually visited by Cambodians with a hope of relieving their pain and illness.
The majestic Angkorian architecture is wonderfully displayed through the sanctuary tower that sits on top of a circular island in the middle of the pond. Surrounded by lush green trees in the middle of the forest, it’s a great place to enjoy tranquility and soulful meditation. Its pleasant view, fresh air and cool surrounding will make you feel relaxed and clear your mind.
History of Neak Poan
Neak Poan was constructed in the late 12th century during the rulership of King Jayavarman VII. Other translations spell this as Neak Pean but it’s pronounced as “Neak Poan.” This site was originally a Hindu sanctuary before it was converted under Buddhism. In a stele at Preah Khan, it was given the name Rajyasri – the Fortune of the Kingdom.
The setup of the sanctuary with four small ponds and one at the center was based on the Hindu belief of balance. The four small ponds represent Earth, Wind, Water and Fire. After the site was converted to a Buddhist sanctuary, it became known to be a source for great rivers that are coming from the mouth of a horse, an ox, a lion and an elephant.
Exploring Neak Poan
We went to this site after our exploration at Preah Khan. I like how its wooden pathway is surrounded by a dense forest because it gives you that adventurous atmosphere. The fact that there was no one else when we went there made our trip more thrilling. This will make you notice how reddish Siem Reap’s soil is.
We were pleased to finally see Neak Poan after our fairly long walk. It literally looks like an oasis as it sits in the middle of the nowhere. This reminded me of our visit to the bigger Srah Srang reservoir. But this is clearly a much smaller version but with the different setup and purpose.
The large blocks that form the boundaries of the ponds look similar to medieval walls and its opening at the center is like an entry point of a medieval dungeon. The tower in the middle of the pond clearly reflects the towers of Angkor Wat. I find it impressive that the entire place is clean and well maintained.
A statue of what seems to be a hairless horse can be found close to the sanctuary. Wonderfully sculpted bas-reliefs can be seen on the tower itself. They may appear to be decorations for some visitors but each one of them has religious symbolism for the adherents. Our short visit to this ancient site has been a rich cultural learning for us. Despite its simplicity and modest size, this beautiful sight is looked up as a “Fortune of the Kingdom.”