Yai Pov temple, which legend says was built for Neang Pov.
A large sign on national Route 2 some 30 kilometers south of Phnom Penh reads: "Welcome
to Bati tourism site".
One kilometer down a dusty red road that cuts through green rice fields lie two temples:
Ta Prom and Yai Pov. The temples stand on the edge of Bati lake, and the legend attached
to them links this area to the spectacular Angkor Wat complex in north-western Cambodia.
When King Preah Keth Melea, who ruled the Khmer kingdom from Angkor Wat, visited
the Bati river, he met a beautiful girl named Neang Pov, daughter of the richest
family in the area.
The king fell in love with Neang Pov and the two were married, but he returned to
his palace when she was in the early stages of pregnancy. Before leaving, he gave
Pov a ring for her unborn baby so that one day he would recognize the child as his.
In time, Pov gave birth to a son, whom she named Ang Prom Koma. As the years passed,
Ang Prom grew curious about his father, and when he was old enough, Pov gave him
the ring and told him where his father lived.
Ang Prom traveled to the north-west and met the king, who recognized the ring and
knew immediately that this was his son. He appointed Ang Prom Sdach Tranh - a title
bestowed on feudal lords in ancient times - and commanded him to control the Bati
With his title, Ang Prom returned to Bati and ordered his fellow citizens to build
two temples: one that his mother could live in (Yai Pov) and one for himself (Ta
Ever since, the temples have been known by that name to tourists and locals alike.
Ta Prom has faced problems similar to many other temples in Cambodia : some parts
of the temple were destroyed and most of the Buddha heads and other statues were
However, since 1998 the temples have been managed by the Bati Tourism Development
Company (BTDC), which made a deal with the government to run the complex for 30 years.
Kong Chan Deth, deputy chief of personal affairs and head of security at BTDC, said
that around 250 local and foreign tourists visited the site in the low season, while
the high season attracts as many as 500.
Chan Deth's only complaint was that problems in nearby Phnom Penh as well as difficulties
in the rest of the country seriously affected tourist numbers. The hotel bombings
in the capital two months ago had sparked an 80 per cent drop in visitor numbers,
"If the situation in Phnom Penh and the rest of the country is good, then many
tourists will visit my site. Our business is dependent on that," he told the
The site itself offers more than just temples, though. The lake is ideal for swimming,
and floating cottages on its surface offer an excellent chance to enjoy the fresh
air, he said.
And it's not only tourists who enjoy the lake: the day the Post was there, a group
of monks arrived, splashing around robeless in inner tubes. It is certainly a far
cry from the arrival hundreds of years ago of a young king, who set in motion the
construction of the lakeside temples one can see there today.