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A spectacularly carved riverbed, Kbal Spean is set deep in the jungle to the northeast of Angkor. More commonly referred to in English as the ‘River of a Thousand Lingas’, the name actually means ‘bridgehead’, a reference to the natural rock bridge at the site.
It is a 2km uphill walk to the carvings, along a pretty path that winds its way up into the jungle, passing by some interesting boulder formations along the way. Carry plenty of water up the hill, as there is none available beyond the parking area. The path eventually splits to the waterfall or the river carvings. There is an impressive carving of Vishnu on the upper section of the river, followed by a series of carvings at the bridgehead itself, some of which were hacked off in the past few years, but have since been replaced by excellent replicas. This area is now roped off to protect the carvings from further damage.
Kbal Spean is about 50km northeast of Siem Reap or about 18km beyond the temple of Banteay Srei. The road is now excellent, as it forms part of the new road north to Anlong Veng and the Thai border, so it takes just one hour or so from town.
Admission to Kbal Spean is included in the general Angkor pass; the last entry to the site is at 3.30pm.
Considered by Khmers to be the most sacred mountain in Cambodia, Phnom Kulen is a popular place of pilgrimage on weekends and during festivals. It played a significant role in the history of the Khmer empire, as it was from here in AD 802 that Jayavarman II proclaimed himself a devaraja (god-king), giving birth to the Cambodian kingdom. Attractions include a giant reclining Buddha, hundreds of lingas carved in the riverbed, an impressive waterfall and some remote temples.
The waterfall is an attractive spot and was featured in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. However, it could be much more beautiful were it not for all the litter left here by families picnicking at the weekend. Near the top of the waterfall is a jungle-clad temple known as Prasat Krau Romeas, dating from the 9th century.
Phnom Kulen is a huge plateau around 50km from Siem Reap and about 15km from Banteay Srei. To get here on the toll road, take the well-signposted right fork just before Banteay Srei village and go straight ahead at the crossroads. Just before the road starts to climb the mountain, there is a barrier and it is here that the US$20 charge is levied.Book Now