Spean Thma is the Bridge of Stone located just west of Ta Keo temple. Not many Angkor era bridges survived to this day, Spean Thma is one of the few that did. Albeit it’s just an odd array of rock nowadays.
Spean Thma was constructed to bridge the Siem Reap River and is believed to have been reconstructed sometimes in the 15th century by utilizing carved stone from old temples.
When you first see Spean Thma and realize that it was actually a bridge, the first thing that gets to your mind is – and where the hell is the river? Fact of a matter is, Spean Thma did cross the Siem Reap river when it was constructed, but through obstructions and construction of water channels, the river’s course has changed, but the bridge remained where it was built.
In 968 A.D., when King Jayavarman V was mere 10 year old, he succeeded to his father, Rajendravarman and took up the throne to the Khmer Empire. By the time he was 17, he moved his residence to the east end of East Baray while the lake’s west bank was to become the seat of new Khmer capital. The works on new capital’s state temple – Ta Keo began in 975 A.D. Even though known as Ta Keo at present day, temple’s original name was Hemasringagiri, meaning “The Mountain with Golden Peaks” in reference to the sacred peak of Mount Meru from Indian mythology.
King Jayavarman V died in 1001 A.D. and Ta Keo was left unfinished even though artisans had only started carving its walls. While it is likely that king’s premature death was one of the main reasons the works on the temple barely continued after his death (some work was done during the reign of Jayaviravarman who succeeded Jayavarman V), according to the account by Suryavarman I’s high priest Yogisvarapandita who got the temple many years later, Ta Keo was struck by a lightning while still under constructions which was understood as bad omen and all additional works on the structure were abandoned.
Given its height of 21.5 meters above the ground, Ta Keo is the highest temple at Angkor. The five tier pyramid temple was originally surrounded by moat but this has completely vanished with time. Temple’s upper level houses five sanctuary towers and is accessible by super steep stair on each side of the temple.
For me, Ta Keo was one of the least interesting temples on the little circuit. Since work on it was abandoned shortly after the artists started decorating it, there isn’t much as to the bas reliefs and/or carvings to see. I snapped a few pictures of Ta Keo, wiped off the sweat and moved on to ride further afield under the scorching Cambodian sun.