"The Tonlé Bati is a small lake about 30km south of Phnom Penh. It is a popular weekend getaway for the locals and it is also a popular fishing spot. Tourists enjoy visiting the Tonlé Bati because it is a place of worship and has 2 ancient temples."
Tonlé Bati, situated some 30 kilometres to the southwest of Phnom Penh, is a very old village with a temple from the Angkor period. As it is by a lake which attracts many tourists (especially Cambodians who like to go walking there at the weekend), several shops and restaurants have opened there. Tonlé Bati is a popular lake and picnic area that has bamboo shacks built out over the water that people can rent out for eating and whiling away the day. It's nice and quiet during the week. Locals swim there, but the water does not look real inviting. There are all kinds of food and drink stands that sell everything you need for a picnic along the lake.
There are two small but very nice temples at Tonle Bati, the Ta Phrom, and another peaceful temple lies some 30km further south off the same road at Phnom Chisor. Tonle Bati can be easily reached on the bus for Takeo: buy your ticket directly from the bus operator for the best price, and get off by the Sokimex petrol station – where there’s a large hoarding showing the temple – and take a moto the final 2.5
kilometers to the temple; alternatively, you can do the whole journey from the capital by moto and tuk-tuk.
To see Phnom Chisor, the Takeo bus also stops along the main road where enterprising moto drivers are on-hand to take you the final 2km. Alternatively, take an excursion operated by one of the capital’s travel agents or guesthouses.
A modern Buddist temple at the lake
The peaceful site of Tonle Bati is set on the banks of the Bati River in a well-tended grove of coconut and mango trees, where you can swim and picnic as well as seeing the two temples. You will be met immediately by a gaggle of young girls selling flowers, who will most likely follow you around until you leave, even if you’re adamant about not buying. The first temple you come to on entering the site is the larger of the two, Ta Prohm. Constructed by Jayavarman VII – creator of the magnificent Angkor Thom – on the site of a sixth-century shrine, it’s dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva (though Jayavarman eventually adopted Theravada Buddhism).
The main entrance is from the east along a short laterite causeway, edged by flowers and shrubs; piled up to the side at the entrance are broken chunks of masonry, some elaborately carved with scenes from the Churning of the Ocean of Milk or the Ramayana.
At the centre of the inner enclosure are the temple’s five sanctuaries, its antechambers built in a cruciform shape, with shrines to the cardinal directions. Above the entrance, a carved stone image of a reclining Buddha has been colourfully coated in paint. The main sanctuary, of sandstone, contains an upright Buddha image, while the antechambers house damaged stone linga. Another image of Buddha, over the north arm of the cruciform, has been superimposed with a carving of a six-armed Vishnu, a change probably made when the Angkorian kingdom reverted to Hinduism after the death of Jayavarman VII.
Ta Prohm of Takeo
Well-preserved carvings decorate the outside of the sanctuary and several tell unusual tales. High up on the northeast corner is a scene of two women and a kneeling man: one woman carries a basket on her head, containing the afterbirth from her recent confinement; the midwife, shown standing, was not given sufficient respect during the birth and has condemned the new mother to carry the basket for the rest of her life; her husband is shown begging for forgiveness. The corresponding spot on the northwest corner shows a king sitting next to his wife, who is said to have been unfaithful; below she is put to death by being trampled by a horse.
The north gopura used to contain a statue of Preah Noreay, a Hindu deity who is said to bestow fertility upon childless women; although the statue is still undergoing restoration at the National Museum, women continue to arrive here to seek his help.
From a Travel Blog:
"We took a look at Tonle Bati before we headed back to Phnom Penh. It’s a lake where Cambodians like to chill out in little wooden huts on the water. Quite a few of them were semi-submerged, but it didn’t seem to bother the occupants, who were relaxing in hammocks or just on the floor.
The hassling quickly started up again and we decided the best option would be to buy a couple of bottles of water and sit in one of the more solid looking huts to drink them. We then took a quick walk around, but after I’d stopped to take a couple of photos I turned around to see Jane mobbed by about 15 people all trying to flog bits of shite to her. We found the Tuk Tuk driver and made our exit."