Thmor Bridge / Spean Thma – Stone bridge in Angkor

Thmor Bridge / Spean Thma – Stone bridge in Angkor

Spean Thma (also known as the Thmor Bridge) is located in Siem Reap province in Angkor and is one of the few bridges from the Khmer Empire that have survived to this day. Roughly translated, “Spean Thma” means “stone bridge”.

Thmor Bridge / Brücke

Thmor Bridge

The exact date when the bridge was originally built cannot be traced today. However, some irregularities in its stone structure (there are some blocks of sandstone that might have been used elsewhere before) show that the bridge was rebuilt in the 15th century (i.e., well after the high Khmer period). Spean Thma is located right next to the temple mountain Ta Keo – so a visit to these monuments can be easily combined. One assumption of researchers is that the bridge was built during the reign of Jayavarman VII, as he had numerous roads built during his reign, which often led over similar bridges.

The bridge was built on the former route between the eastern baray and Angkor Thom. It is located only about 200 meters from Thommanon.

Architecturally, bridges from the Khmer Empire often resemble each other: the many stone bricks piled on top of each other form several wide bridge piers, with fourteen narrow arches about a meter wide spanning between them.

A French research team restored the bridge structure in the early 20th century and removed the fauna that threatened the structure. Nevertheless, it is still beautiful to see how the structure has “grown together” with nature over the centuries.

Spean Thma shows exceptionally well how much the water level was subject to change over the centuries (possibly also as a trigger (by sediment deposits and a resulting change in the course of the river) or else as a result of the collapse of the sophisticated irrigation system in Angkor). In fact, even today a water wheel can be discovered next to the bridge. Originally, the structure was twice as wide as the river itself, because especially in the monsoon period the water must have risen very strongly.

Ruinen bei der Thmor Bridge

Ruins near the Thmor Bridge

Even if the bridge itself is only mentioned as a footnote in the major travel guides to the region around Angkor, one should not forget Spean Thma when visiting the other, larger monuments – it is not for nothing that it is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. At least the visitor can imagine how different the course of the Siem Reap River was at that time and what a great achievement the water supply was in the Khmer Empire at that time.